Croup is swelling in the voice box and wind pipe. The swelling can make it difficult to breathe. This can cause a barking cough. Croup occurs most often in children between age six months and three 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.
Upper Respiratory System in a Child
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Croup is caused by viral infections such as:
A risk factor is something that increases your chance of getting a disease or condition. Risk factors for 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:
Your doctor will ask 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.
If your child is diagnosed with croup, follow your doctor's instructions. 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 medicine, 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 that 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 six months and five years.
American Academy of Pediatrics
About Kids Health
Croup. American Academy of Family Physicians. Family Doctor.org website. Available at: http://familydocto... . Updated February 2010. Accessed July 17, 2012.
DynaMed Editors. Croup. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://dynamed.ebscohost.com/ . Updated March 10, 2011. Accessed July 17, 2012.
Kleigman RM, Jensen HB, et al. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics . 18th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders Elsevier; 2007.
What is croup and how is it treated? American Academy of Pediatrics. Healthy Children.org website. Available at: http://www.healthy... . Updated January 2012. Accessed July 16, 2012.
Last reviewed September 2013 by Kari Kassir, MD
Last Updated: 9/30/2013