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Croup in Children



is a respiratory infection. It causes your child's throat and upper airways to swell and narrow. It is also called laryngotracheobronchitis. Croup is most common in children ages 6 months to 3 years. Your child may get croup more than once.

Common signs and symptoms include the following:

Croup begins like a cold with cough, fever, and a runny nose. As your child's airway becomes swollen, he or she may have any of the following:

  • Barking cough that is worse at night
  • Noisy, fast, or difficult breathing
  • Hoarse or raspy voice

Call your local emergency number (911 in the US) 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.

Seek care immediately 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.

Call your child's doctor 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.


Your child may need any of the following:

  • Cough medicine helps loosen mucus in your child's lungs and makes it easier to cough up. Do not give cold or cough medicines to children under 4 years of age. Ask your child's healthcare provider if you can give cough medicine to your child.
  • Acetaminophen decreases pain and fever. It is available without a doctor's order. Ask how much to give your child and how often to give it. Follow directions. Read the labels of all other medicines your child uses to see if they also contain acetaminophen, or ask your child's doctor or pharmacist. Acetaminophen can cause liver damage if not taken correctly.
  • NSAIDs , such as ibuprofen, help decrease swelling, pain, and fever. This medicine is available with or without a doctor's order. NSAIDs can cause stomach bleeding or kidney problems in certain people. If your child takes blood thinner medicine, always ask if NSAIDs are safe for him or her. Always read the medicine label and follow directions. Do not give these medicines to children under 6 months of age without direction from your child's healthcare provider.
  • 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.

Manage your child's symptoms:

  • Help your child rest and keep calm as much as possible. Stress can make your child's cough worse.
  • Moist air may help your child breathe easier and decrease his or her cough. Take your child outside for 5 minutes if it is cold. Or, take your child into the bathroom and turn on a hot shower or bathtub. Do not put your child into the shower or bathtub. Sit with your child in the warm, moist air for 15 to 20 minutes.
  • Use a cool mist humidifier to increase air moisture in your home. This may make it easier for your child to breathe and help decrease his or her cough.

Prevent the spread of croup:

  • Have your child wash his or her hands often with soap and water. Carry germ-killing hand lotion or gel with you. Have your child use the lotion or gel to clean his or her hands when soap and water are not available.
  • Remind your child to cover his or her mouth while coughing or sneezing. Have your child cough or sneeze into a tissue or the bend of his or her arm. Ask those around your child to cover their mouths when they cough or sneeze.
  • Do not let your child share cups, silverware, or dishes with others.
  • Keep your child home from school or daycare.
  • Get the vaccinations your child needs. Take your child to get a flu vaccine as soon as recommended each year, usually in September or October. Ask your child's healthcare provider if your child needs other vaccines.

Follow up with your child's doctor as directed:

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

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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.

Learn more about Croup in Children (Ambulatory Care)

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Further information

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