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Croup In Children


What is croup?

Croup is an infection that causes the throat and upper airways of the lungs to swell and narrow. It is also called laryngotracheobronchitis. 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. Your child may get croup more than one time.

What increases my child's risk for croup?

Croup is commonly caused by a virus. The virus is spread through the air when others cough or sneeze. It can be spread if your child touches contaminated items and then touches his or her mouth, nose, or eyes.

What are the signs and symptoms of croup?

Croup may start like a cold with a stuffy or runny nose and fever. 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

How is croup treated?

  • 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. Use a cool mist humidifier in your child's room. If it is cool outside, take your clothed child outside in the cool, moist air for 5 minutes. This may also make it easier for your child to breathe and help decrease his or her cough.
  • Medicine may be needed to help with your child's cough. Ask your child's healthcare provider what medicine to give your child for a cough. Most cough medicines cannot be given to children under 2 years of age. Your child may also need medicine for fever. 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.

How can I 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.

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.

When should I seek immediate care?

  • 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.

When should I contact my child's healthcare provider?

  • 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.

Care Agreement

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 healthcare providers to decide what care you want for your child. 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.

© Copyright IBM Corporation 2018 Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or IBM Watson Health

Further information

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

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