Croup is swelling in the voice box and wind pipe. The swelling can make it difficult to breathe. It can also cause a telltale barking cough.
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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:
At first, croup may seem like a common cold. The symptoms can come on suddenly. They often appear at night. Symptoms of croup can include:
More serious symptoms of croup that may require immediate medical attention include:
You will be asked about your child's symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done. The doctor may assume croup based on the symptoms.
Tests are not always needed. If croup is severe or not clear, your doctor may request:
The infection will pass on its own in 5 to 7 days. Severe symptoms will usually pass in 3 to 4 days.
Treatment can help to lessen symptoms and keep airways open. Treatment options include:
Breathing trouble can make it hard to sleep. Moist air may help a child breathe easier. The following methods may help:
Encourage your child to drink plenty of fluids. Choose water and unsweetened juices.
The doctor may recommend:
A child with serious croup may need to stay in a hospital. Hospital care may include:
Take steps to decrease your child's chance of catching colds and flu. Wash your hands often. Encourage them to do the same. Avoid contact with people who have cold or flu when possible.
Yearly flu vaccines can prevent croup caused by flu. It 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 March 2017. Accessed September 21, 2017.
Croup. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114811/Croup. Updated May 3, 2017. Accessed September 21, 2017.
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 November 21, 2015. Accessed September 21, 2017.
Last reviewed January 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Kari Kassir, MD Last Updated: 8/24/2018