This upper airway infection obstructs breathing and causes a barking cough. It involves swelling around the voice box, windpipe and bronchial tubes.
Croup refers to an infection of the upper airway, which obstructs breathing and causes a characteristic barking cough.
The cough and other signs and symptoms of croup are the result of swelling around the voice box (larynx), windpipe (trachea) and bronchial tubes (bronchi). When a cough forces air through this narrowed passageway, the swollen vocal cords produce a noise similar to a seal barking. Likewise, taking a breath often produces a high-pitched whistling sound (stridor).
Croup typically occurs in younger children. Croup usually isn't serious and most children can be treated at home.
Croup often begins as a typical cold. If there's enough inflammation and coughing, a child will develop:
Symptoms of croup are typically worse at night and usually last for three to five days.
If your child's symptoms are severe, worsen or last longer than three to five days or aren't responding to home treatment, contact your child's doctor.
Seek immediate medical attention if your child:
Croup is usually caused by a viral infection, most often a parainfluenza virus.
Your child may contract a virus by breathing infected respiratory droplets coughed or sneezed into the air. Virus particles in these droplets may also survive on toys and other surfaces. If your child touches a contaminated surface and then touches his or her eyes, nose or mouth, an infection may follow.
Most at risk of getting croup are children between 6 months and 3 years of age. Because children have small airways, they are most susceptible to having more symptoms with croup.
Most cases of croup are mild. In a small percentage of children, the airway swells enough to interfere with breathing. Rarely, a secondary bacterial infection of the trachea can occur, resulting in trouble breathing and requiring emergency medical care.
Only a small number of children seen in the emergency room for croup require hospitalization.
To prevent croup, take the same steps you use to prevent colds and flu.
To stave off more-serious infections, keep your child's vaccinations current. The diphtheria and Haemophilus influenza type b (Hib) vaccines offer protection from some of the rarest — but most dangerous — upper airway infections. There isn't a vaccine yet that protects against parainfluenza viruses.
Croup is typically diagnosed by a doctor. He or she will:
Sometimes X-rays or other tests are used to rule out other possible illnesses.
The majority of children with croup can be treated at home. Still croup can be scary, especially if it lands your child in the doctor's office, emergency room or hospital. Treatment is typically based on the severity of symptoms.
Comforting your child and keeping him or her calm are important, because crying and agitation worsen airway obstruction. Hold your child, sing lullabies or read quiet stories. Offer a favorite blanket or toy. Speak in a soothing voice.
If your child's symptoms persist beyond three to five days or worsen, your child's doctor may prescribe these medications:
For severe croup, your child may need to spend time in a hospital to be monitored and receive additional treatments.
Croup often runs its course within three to five days. In the meantime, keep your child comfortable with a few simple measures:
Your child's cough may improve during the day, but don't be surprised if it returns at night. You may want to sleep near your child or even in the same room so that you can take quick action if your child's symptoms become severe.
In most cases of croup, your child won't need to see a doctor. However, if your child's symptoms are severe or aren't responding to home treatment, you should call your doctor.
Before your appointment, make a list of:
Your child's doctor will likely ask a number of questions to help determine the best course of treatment:
Your doctor will ask additional questions based on your responses and your child's symptoms and needs. Preparing and anticipating questions will help you make the most of your time with the doctor.
October 2nd, 2021