Difference Between Bronchitis and Laryngitis

Bronchitis and laryngitis are two common respiratory conditions that often result from an infection of the upper respiratory tract. While both conditions can cause coughing, wheezing, and other symptoms, they affect different parts of the respiratory system and have distinct characteristics.

What is Bronchitis?

Bronchitis is a common respiratory disorder that occurs when the bronchial tubes become inflamed and produce excess mucus. There are two types of bronchitis: acute bronchitis and chronic bronchitis. Acute bronchitis is usually caused by a viral infection and is characterized by a sudden onset of cough, chest congestion, and difficulty breathing.

The symptoms of acute bronchitis usually last for a few days to a week and can be managed with over-the-counter medications and plenty of fluids. Chronic bronchitis, on the other hand, is a long-term condition that is caused by smoking, air pollution, or other irritants. It is characterized by a persistent cough that produces sputum and can last for several months. Chronic bronchitis can lead to complications such as respiratory failure and pneumonia if left untreated.

  • Symptoms: Bronchitis typically begins with a cough that eventually may produce sputum. There is also often a pain in the chest and a feeling of tightness and dyspnea is often present. The breathing passages are often very congested. In addition, the condition usually lasts for over a week and may even take up to 21 days for a person to fully recover from.

  • Diagnosis and causes: A clinician can diagnose bronchitis in a person by doing a physical exam and noting the symptoms. Listening to the chest and also doing a chest X-ray may be helpful in ruling out other possible causes of the chest problems. Most often the condition is the result of a viral infection particularly associated with influenza type A and B, and rhinovirus. There are other viruses that can lead to bronchitis, including the parainfluenza and coronavirus. Environmental factors such as smoking can result in bronchitis as can having the illness cystic fibrosis.

What is Laryngitis?

Laryngitis is the disorder in which the larynx becomes inflamed causing a change to the voice. The condition can be acute, lasting for less than 3 weeks or chronic, lasting for longer than 3 weeks. If it is caused by a virus it usually becomes worse within a few days.

  • Symptoms of Laryngitis: The most obvious symptom is a change in the sound of the voice and difficulty in speaking. Throat pain, hoarseness and a tickle in the throat may occur. Difficulty swallowing and fever may occur in a bad infection.

  • Diagnosis and causes for Laryngitis: Diagnosis is based on a physical examination and a laryngoscopy. Laryngitis can be a result of excessive coughing in people who have pneumonia, bronchitis or influenza. It may also happen in people who use their voice a lot as is the case with most professional singers. Inhaling irritating substances such as cigarette smoke can cause it as can severe allergies. Conditions such as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and bulimia may sufficiently burn the throat region to subsequently cause laryngitis.

  • Risk factors and treatment: Risk factors include being a professional singer, smoking cigarettes, being exposed to irritating chemicals or allergens, and having a respiratory infection such as pneumonia, the flu, or bronchitis. The treatment is often aimed at the symptoms so cough suppressants, inhaling steam and resting the voice can all help. Treatment can depend on the cause so someone with GERD can be given medicine to control the acid reflux.

Differences: Bronchitis and Laryngitis

Bronchitis is an inflammation of the bronchial tubes, which are the airways that connect the trachea (windpipe) to the lungs. The bronchial tubes are lined with mucus membranes and tiny hair-like structures called cilia, which help to move mucus out of the lungs. When the bronchial tubes become inflamed, they produce excess mucus, which can clog the airways and make breathing difficult.

There are two types of bronchitis: acute bronchitis and chronic bronchitis. Acute bronchitis is a short-term condition that usually lasts for a few weeks and is often caused by a viral infection, such as the common cold or flu. Symptoms of acute bronchitis can include coughing, wheezing, chest tightness, fatigue, and fever.

Chronic bronchitis, on the other hand, is a long-term condition that lasts for several months or more and is often caused by smoking or exposure to air pollution. Chronic bronchitis is characterized by a persistent cough, excessive mucus production, and recurrent chest infections. People with chronic bronchitis are also at a higher risk of developing other respiratory conditions, such as emphysema and pneumonia.

Laryngitis, on the other hand, is an inflammation of the larynx, which is also known as the voice box. The larynx is located at the top of the trachea and is responsible for producing sound when air passes through the vocal cords. When the larynx becomes inflamed, the vocal cords become swollen and irritated, making it difficult to speak or even breathe.

Laryngitis is often caused by a viral or bacterial infection, although it can also be caused by overuse of the voice, allergies, or exposure to irritants such as smoke or chemical fumes. Symptoms of laryngitis can include hoarseness, loss of voice, sore throat, and coughing.

While bronchitis and laryngitis have different causes and affect different parts of the respiratory system, they can both be treated with similar methods. Treatment for both conditions may include rest, fluids, over-the-counter pain relievers, and cough suppressants. In some cases, antibiotics may be prescribed to treat bacterial infections.

In addition to these treatments, people with bronchitis or laryngitis may also benefit from practicing good respiratory hygiene, such as washing their hands frequently, avoiding close contact with others who are sick, and covering their mouths when coughing or sneezing.

The following table highlights the major differences between Bronchitis and Laryngitis:





Bronchitis is when the upper respiratory tract is inflamed.

Laryngitis is a condition in which the larynx becomes inflamed.


Bronchitis has symptoms which include wheezing, coughing, and difficulty breathing, as well as chest tightness.

The main symptom of laryngitis is a change in how the voice sounds, along with hoarseness, a tickle in the throat, and soreness. In more severe cases there may be fever present and difficulty in swallowing.


A physical exam is how bronchitis is diagnosed. Chest X-rays really help to exclude any other causes aside from bronchitis.

A physical exam and laryngoscopy are how laryngitis is diagnosed.


Several viruses such as influenza, parainfluenza, RSV and coronavirus can cause the acute form of bronchitis. A more chronic form of the illness is caused by smoking or illnesses such as cystic fibrosis or COPD.

Laryngitis is caused by overuse of the voice or by excessive coughing during an illness. Certain irritants such as cigarette smoking and other allergens can also cause laryngitis.

Risk factors

The risk of getting bronchitis increases if you have a respiratory illness caused by a virus such as the influenza virus, or have cystic fibrosis or COPD. Smoking also increases the risk of bronchitis.

Singers are at risk for laryngitis because they overuse their voices. People who smoke or are ill with a cough are also at risk of developing laryngitis.


Pain medicine, anti-inflammatories and beta2-antagonists like albuterol are used to treat bronchitis.

Treatment of laryngitis involves resting the voice, inhaling steam, and treating the underlying cause of the problem.


In conclusion, bronchitis and laryngitis are two common respiratory conditions that affect different parts of the respiratory system. While they have different causes and symptoms, both conditions can be treated with similar methods, including rest, fluids, and medication. If you experience symptoms of either condition, it is important to seek medical attention to ensure proper diagnosis and treatment.

Updated on: 12-May-2023


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