What is croup?
"Croup" is the term used to describe the harsh cough that accompanies a respiratory illness. Croup is a respiratory infection that affects children, mainly during fall and winter months. It affects children under age 5, and symptoms are most severe in children under 3 years. Croup may last from five to six days, depending on the severity of the infection, and may have other complications such as ear infection or pneumonia.
Croup is most commonly caused by viruses such as influenza, parainfluenza, RSV, measles, and adenovirus, but occasionally is caused by bacteria. This infection causes the upper airways to swell, making it difficult to breathe.
How can I tell if my child has croup?
Although there are recognizable signs of croup, any illness that complicates your child's breathing should be evaluated by your child's doctor.
What are the symptoms of croup?
- A harsh or "barky" cough
- Stridor (harsh, raspy vibrating sound when breathing in)
- Difficulty breathing
- Difficulty bending the neck
- High fever
- Restlessness or nervousness at night or when it becomes harder to breathe
How can I continue to care for my child at home?
- Do not allow anyone to smoke around your child or in the home.
- Give your child all medicines as instructed by the doctor.
- A cool mist vaporizer may help soothe dry and irritated airways. Your doctor may recommended a vaporizer.
- Allow your child to rest as needed.
- If your child's symptoms worsen or begin to return, call the doctor.
- Cough medicines are usually not helpful.
- When severe cases of croup require hospitalization, care may include breathing treatments (aerosols), a cool mist tent, rest, and medications given by mouth, intravenously (IV), or injection.
How can the spread of croup be prevented?
- Croup can by spread by physical contact or through the air. To help prevent its spread:
- Wash and dry your hands thoroughly after caring for your child.
- Try washing toys between each use.
- Encourage your child to cover his or her mouth and nose during coughs and sneezes.
- Keep your child home from school or day care when they are ill or if outbreaks occur.
- Throw away used tissues.
Questions to ask your child's doctor
- For how long and at what times of the day should I give my child medication, if any?
- How should I store the medication? In the refrigerator?
- When will my child start to feel better?
- Will I need to bring my child back for a follow-up visit?
- Should I keep my child home from school or day care?
- From which activities should I limit my child?
- Are certain foods or liquids more helpful?
- Which over-the-counter pain relievers do you recommend?
- Which over-the-counter medications/preparations are NOT recommended?
- Which symptoms should I report to the doctor?