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Croup In Children


Croup is an infection that causes the throat and upper airways of the lungs to swell and narrow. It is also called laryngotracheobronchitis and commonly caused by a virus. Croup makes it harder for your child to breathe. This infection is common in children 5 years or younger, but your child can get croup at any age. He or she may get croup more than one time.


Call 911 if:

  • Your child stops breathing or breathing becomes difficult.
  • Your child faints.
  • Your child's lips or fingernails turn blue, gray, or white.
  • The skin between your child's ribs or around his or her neck goes in with every breath.
  • Your child is dizzy or sleeping more than what is normal for him or her.
  • Your child drools or has trouble swallowing his or her saliva.

Return to the emergency department if:

  • Your child has no tears when he or she cries.
  • The soft spot on the top of your baby's head is sunken in.
  • Your child has wrinkled skin, cracked lips, or a dry mouth.
  • Your child urinates less than what is normal for him or her.

Contact your child's healthcare provider if:

  • Your child has a fever.
  • Your child does not get better after sitting in a steamy bathroom for 10 to 15 minutes.
  • Your child's cough does not go away.
  • You have questions or concerns about your child's condition or care.


  • Ibuprofen or acetaminophen: These medicines are given to decrease your child's pain and fever. They can be bought without a doctor's order. Ask how much medicine is safe to give your child, and how often to give it.
  • Cough medicine may help your child's cough. Ask your child's healthcare provider what to give for cough. Most cough medicines cannot be given to children younger than 2 years.
  • Do not give aspirin to children under 18 years of age. Your child could develop Reye syndrome if he takes aspirin. Reye syndrome can cause life-threatening brain and liver damage. Check your child's medicine labels for aspirin, salicylates, or oil of wintergreen.
  • Give your child's medicine as directed. Contact your child's healthcare provider if you think the medicine is not working as expected. Tell him or her if your child is allergic to any medicine. Keep a current list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs your child takes. Include the amounts, and when, how, and why they are taken. Bring the list or the medicines in their containers to follow-up visits. Carry your child's medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

Follow up with your child's healthcare provider as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

Care for your child:

  • Have your child breathe moist air. Warm, moist air may help your child breathe easier. If your child has symptoms of croup, take him or her into the bathroom. Close the bathroom door, and turn on a hot shower. Do not put your child into the shower. Sit with your child in the warm, moist air for 15 to 20 minutes. If it is cool outside, take your clothed child outside in the cool, moist air for 5 minutes.
  • Comfort your child. Keep him or her calm. Crying can make his cough worse and breathing more difficult. Have your child rest as much as possible.
  • Give your child liquids as directed. Offer your child small amounts of room temperature liquids every hour. Ask your child's healthcare provider how much to give your child.
  • Use a cool mist humidifier in your child's room. This may also make it easier for your child to breathe and help decrease his or her cough.
  • Do not let others smoke around your child. Smoke can make your child's breathing and coughing worse.

Prevent the spread of croup:

  • Wash your hands often. Use soap and water. Wash your hands after you use the bathroom, change a child's diapers, or sneeze. Wash your hands before you prepare or eat food.
  • Do not let your child share cups, forks, spoons, or plates with others.
  • Keep your child home from school or daycare.

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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.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

Learn more about Croup In Children (Aftercare Instructions)

Associated drugs

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