Croup is a common infection in children. It causes swelling in the
upper part of the airway in the neck. It causes a barking cough, with or without fever.
And it may cause problems with breathing. The illness is seen more often in the
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
Croup is spread through direct
contact with an infected person or their 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).
Younger children are more affected by croup because their airways are
smaller. A small amount of swelling can make it very hard for a baby or young child to
breathe. Croup is most often seen in children 3 months to 5 years old. The peak time for
croup to occur is 2 years old.
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:
Breathing in steam or cool night
air may also help your child to breathe easier. You may want to try:
You can help prevent the spread of croup with these tips:
Call right away if your child:
Call your child's healthcare provider right away if your child:
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
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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