What is it?
Croup is an infection of the vocal cords, voice box, windpipe, and bronchi (upper airways of the lungs). It is also called laryngotracheobronchitis (lah-ring-goh-tray-kee-oh-brong-KEYE-tis). Croup causes these tissues to swell and narrow, making it harder for air to enter and leave the lungs. This infection is common in infants and children from three months to three years of age. Most children will outgrow croup by the age of five. Your child may get croup more than once.
What causes croup?
Croup is usually caused by a germ called a virus. Although croup can happen anytime, it usually occurs during the cold weather of late fall and winter.
What are the signs and symptoms of croup?
Your child may have a cold, and develop signs and symptoms of croup over time. These symptoms may last several days. Your child may also have a very mild cold, and then have a sudden attack of difficult breathing, and other signs and symptoms of croup. Croup attacks usually occur during the evening or night. Your child may feel worst for the first two to three days after the croup attack. Your child may have one or more of the following signs and symptoms of croup:
- Barking cough. Your child may become too tired to cough over time.
- Cold-like signs and symptoms such as a cough or sore throat.
- Fast breathing.
- Hoarse voice.
- Low or high fever, or no fever at all.
- Restlessness, and easily becoming tired.
- Stridor. Stridor is a coarse musical noise that is made when your child inhales (breathes in). When a child has croup with stridor, it can become very serious. Stridor is common when a child with croup moves around. If your child has stridor while resting, this can be a sign of severe (very bad) croup.
- Trouble swallowing. Your child may also feel too tired to eat or drink.
What may be done to treat croup?
A few days may pass before your child feels better after having croup. Antibiotic (an-ti-bi-AH-tik) medicine or cough syrups will not work to treat croup.
- Most cases of croup can be treated at home. If your child wakes with signs and symptoms of croup, take him into the bathroom. Close the bathroom door and turn on a hot shower. Do not put your child under the shower. Sit with your child in the bathroom as it steams up from the hot water. The warm, moist air should help your child breathe easier within 15 or 20 minutes. Since croup attacks can happen more than once, do this whenever your child has an attack of croup.
- If this treatment does not work, carry your child outdoors. Breathing moist, cool air may help your child breathe more easily. Keep a cold water vaporizer or humidifier turned on in your child's room. These home treatments will not take away the other symptoms of croup, such as the barking cough.
- If your child is having serious breathing problems, he may need to stay in the hospital. He may need to be placed in a special tent, called a croup tent where he will get extra oxygen. He may need medicine called steroids. This medicine will decrease swelling and allow your child's airway to get larger, making it easier for him to breathe. Your child may need IV fluids (fluids given through a tube placed in a vein). Rarely, a tube may be placed into your child's airway for a short time to open it, letting your child breathe more easily.
You have the right to help plan your child's care. Learn about your child's health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your child's caregivers to decide what care you want for your child.
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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.