Croup is swelling in the voice box and wind pipe. The swelling can make it difficult to breathe. This can cause a barking cough.
Upper Respiratory System in a Child
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Croup is caused by viral infections such as:
Croup occurs most often in children between age 6 months and 3 years. This is because young children have a smaller airway. Airways become wider as children grow. This decreases the chance of croup in older children and adults.
Factors that may increase the risk of croup include:
Croup often begins with symptoms similar to an upper respiratory infection. The symptoms can come on suddenly and often at night. The following is a list of common croup symptoms:
More serious symptoms of croup that may require immediate medical attention include:
You will be asked about your child's symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.
Tests are not always needed. If croup is severe or not clear, your doctor may request:
The goal is to keep your airway open until the infection clears. The infection causing croup will resolve on its own in 5-7 days. Severe symptoms usually resolve in 3-4 days.
Treatment options include:
Your child may have trouble sleeping because of breathing difficulties. Moist air may help your child breathe easier. The following methods may help:
Make sure your child has plenty of fluids. Choose water and unsweetened juices.
The doctor may recommend medications, such as:
For serious croup, your child may need to be hospitalized. Hospital care may include:
Croup usually occurs due to an upper respiratory infection. Take steps to decrease your child's chance of catching colds and flu. Wash your hands often. Avoid contact with people who have cold or flu when possible.
Yearly influenza immunization can prevent cases of croup due to influenza A. Influenza immunization is strongly recommended for all children between the ages of 6 months and 5 years.
Healthy Children—American Academy of Pediatrics
Kids Health—Nemours Foundation
About Kids Health—The Hospital for Sick Children
Croup. Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians. website. Available at: http://familydoctor.org/familydoctor/en/diseases-conditions/croup.printerview.all.html. Updated July 2013. Accessed September 15, 2015.
Croup. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114811/Croup. Updated December 27, 2013. Accessed September 29, 2016.
What is croup and how is it treated? Healthy Children—American Academy of Pediatrics website. Available at: http://www.healthychildren.org/English/health-issues/conditions/chest-lungs/pages/Croup-Treatment.aspx. Updated August 20, 2015. Accessed September 15, 2015.
Last reviewed September 2016 by Kari Kassir, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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