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Difference between Asthma and Croup

Asthma Vs. Croup

Asthma is the disorder in which the bronchi become inflamed for one reason or another. Croup is when the respiratory tract is inflamed due to a virus.

What is Asthma?


Asthma is a chronic problem in which bronchial tubes constrict as a direct result of inflammation. The problem can occur in children and adults.


Symptoms usually include wheezing as well as coughing and a feeling of tightness in the chest area. There may also be much difficulty in breathing and this can become worse, in some severe cases.


Tests of lung function, showing that airflow is limited, along with a physical exam can lead to a diagnosis. Tests of the blood can show extra eosinophils; these are a type of white blood cell that occurs normally at specific levels.


There can be many reasons a person has asthma, and there does seem to be genetic factors that are also partly to blame. Asthma may be caused partly by allergens in the environment or even diet.

Risk factors and complications:

Genetics do seem important, therefore, if you have relatives who have asthma, you are at increased risk of getting it. Exposure to environmental allergens or chemical irritants also increases the risk, and if you are a smoker. People who are obese are also at increased risk of developing the condition. Asthma can kill you and so it should be treated and managed to avoid fatal complications.

Prevention and treatment:

Substances in the environment that can trigger an attack should be avoided. Avoiding contact with sick people and getting vaccinated against the flu is also a good idea to help prevent asthma attacks. People with asthma can be treated with bronchodilator medicine which is usually in inhalers. The addition of corticosteroid medications can be useful since this helps to decrease the inflammation that is present in the airways.

What is Croup?


Croup is a condition in which the respiratory passages (all parts of the airways) become very inflamed because of a viral infection. The condition is most common in infants and very young children.


The most common symptom that is particularly noticeable at nighttime is a cough that sounds like a bark, and there is often noisy breathing and some difficulty in breathing. Breathing difficulties can cause the person to awake at night, and there may even be some bluish pallor to the skin which indicates problems in getting enough oxygen. The symptoms are often much worse at night and improve during the day, only to recur at night again.


The physical symptoms and chest sounds such as crackles that can be heard, can lead to a diagnosis of croup. The sound of the cough and elimination of other conditions by using X-rays can help with diagnosis.


The most common causative agent of croup is parainfluenza virus type 1. However, there are other viruses that can cause croup on occasion, including influenza virus type A and type B, and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). Enterovirus, adenovirus, and rhinovirus have also been implicated in causing croup.

Risk factors and complications:

Children who are between the ages of six months and three years are at the highest risk of croup. It is rare for there to be serious complications but a few children may need to be hospitalized and there is a chance that breathing can become compromised.

Prevention and treatment:

You can try to prevent your child from becoming ill by avoiding contact with other children who are sick with a viral infection. Frequent hand-washing should also be encouraged. Treatment usually entails using a corticosteroid medication and the child is exposed to cool air which is humidified. In the hospital, children with croup can be given epinephrine, corticosteroids, and humidified oxygen.

Difference between Asthma and Croup?

  1. Definition

Asthma is when the bronchi of the airways are inflamed, while croup is when any part of the respiratory tract is inflamed by a virus.

  1. Duration of the condition

Asthma is always a chronic problem that does not go away. Croup is a short-term, acute problem that does go away.

  1. Diagnosis

The diagnosis of asthma is based on a physical exam, blood tests, and lung challenge tests. The diagnosis of croup is based on the physical symptoms that are present.

  1. Symptoms

Symptoms of asthma include a tight chest, wheezing, and problems with breathing. Symptoms of croup include a barking cough that gets worse at night.

  1. Causes

Asthma is caused by genetic factors and environmental allergens. Croup is caused by a viral infection.

  1. Treatment

Treatment for people with asthma includes using inhalers that have corticosteroids and bronchodilators in them. Treatment for people with croup includes the use of humidified cool air, oxygen, corticosteroids, and epinephrine.

Table comparing Asthma and Croup

Characteristics ASTHMA Croup
Definition The bronchial tubes become inflamed for one reason or another A disorder where the respiratory passages are inflamed because of a virus
Duration of the condition Chronic condition found in all age groups Acute condition found most often in infants and children
Diagnosis A physical exam and tests of lung function, as well as blood tests, can be used diagnostically Physical examination, x-rays can eliminate other possible conditions
Symptoms Wheezing, difficulty breathing, and a tight feeling in the chest area Cough that sounds like a bark and is mostly worse at night
Causes Asthma arises due to a combination of allergens and genetic factors Croup arises due to an infection with a viral infection
Treatment Bronchodilators and corticosteroids, usually in inhalers Cool humid air works well and corticosteroids, epinephrine, and oxygen may be needed in severe cases

Summary of Asthma Vs. Croup

  • Asthma and croup are both inflammatory conditions of the respiratory tract
  • Asthma is a chronic problem that can occur at all ages in the population.
  • Croup is an acute condition that happens in infants and very young children.
  • In both asthma and croup, the person may need to be hospitalized.

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References :

[0]Bhatia, Rajeev. “Croup (Laryngotracheobronchitis)”. Merckmanuals. Merck & Co., 2018, https://www.msdmanuals.com/professional/pediatrics/respiratory-disorders-in-young-children/croup

[1]Mayo Clinic. “Croup”. Mayo Clinic. Mayo Clinic Foundation, 2019, https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/croup/symptoms-causes/syc-20350348

[2]Ortega, Victor E and Emily J. Pennington. “Asthma”. Merckmanuals. Merck & Co., 2017, https://www.msdmanuals.com/professional/pulmonary-disorders/asthma-and-related-disorders/asthma

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