A virus is the most common cause of croup. But the illness may also be caused by bacteria, allergies, or reflux from the stomach. Viruses that are known to cause croup are:
Croup is spread through direct contact with an infected person or his or her body fluids. The infection starts in the nose and throat and moves into the lungs. Swelling affects the area around the voice box (larynx) and into the windpipe (trachea).
The symptoms of croup are not always the same. As the illness moves from the nose to the lungs, the symptoms can change. They may include:
These symptoms are often worse at night and may wake your child from sleep. They may also seem to get better in the morning but get worse as the day goes on. Most children feel better in 3 to 7 days.
The symptoms of croup can be mistaken for other health problems. Make sure your child sees his or her healthcare provider for a diagnosis.
Your child’s healthcare provider can diagnose croup with a health history and physical exam. Your child may need tests if the provider thinks he or she may have other illnesses. These tests include:
Treatment will depend on your child’s symptoms, age, and general health. It will also depend on how severe the condition is.
In severe cases of croup, or if your child is not breathing well, your child may need to go to the hospital. You can manage most milder cases at home. But it can sometimes be hard to tell if your child needs to go to the hospital because the illness changes. Your child may seem better at one moment, and then get worse the next. Your child’s healthcare provider may order the following medicines to help ease symptoms:
For a milder case, these methods may help at home:
Inhaling steam or cool night air may also help with breathing. You may want to try:
You can help prevent the spread of croup with these tips:
Always use a digital thermometer to check your child’s temperature. Never use a mercury thermometer.
For infants and toddlers, be sure to use a rectal thermometer correctly. A rectal thermometer may accidentally poke a hole in (perforate) the rectum. It may also pass on germs from the stool. Always follow the product maker’s directions for proper use. If you don’t feel comfortable taking a rectal temperature, use another method. When you talk to your child’s healthcare provider, tell him or her which method you used to take your child’s temperature.
Here are guidelines for fever temperature. Ear temperatures aren’t accurate before 6 months of age. Don’t take an oral temperature until your child is at least 4 years old.
Infant under 3 months old:
Child age 3 to 36 months:
Child of any age:
Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your child’s healthcare provider:
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