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Medically reviewed by Last updated on Jun 6, 2022.

What is croup?

Croup is a respiratory infection. It causes your throat and upper airways to swell and narrow. It is also called laryngotracheobronchitis. Croup is more common in children, but adults can also get it.

What causes croup?

Croup is commonly caused by a virus. It usually occurs during the common cold season. Croup is spread by breathing in germs from infected people when they cough or sneeze.

What are the signs and symptoms of croup?

Croup begins like a cold with cough, fever, and a runny nose. Your symptoms usually remain mild during the first 2 to 4 days. After that, the following symptoms get worse at night or when you lie down:

  • A harsh or barking cough
  • Hoarseness
  • Noisy or whistling breathing

How is croup diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will ask you about recent cold symptoms. He or she will listen to your lungs. Your healthcare provider may recommend a chest x-ray to make sure you have no other conditions.

How is croup treated?

Treatment can usually be done at home. Your healthcare provider may recommend any of the following:

  • Medicines, such as acetaminophen, steroids, and NSAIDs, may be given. These medicines help decrease fever and inflammation, and open your airway. Ask your healthcare provider which cough medicine may help with your cough.
  • Rest and keep calm as much as possible. Stress hormones can make your cough worse.
  • Sit in a steam-filled bathroom. Turn the shower or bathtub on. Close the door and sit in the bathroom for about 15 to 20 minutes. Do not get into the shower.
  • Use a humidifier or vaporizer next to your bed to help decrease your cough at night.
  • Drink warm liquids. Warm liquids will soothe your throat and help with your cough.

Treatment options

The following list of medications are in some way related to or used in the treatment of this condition.

View more treatment options

How can I prevent the spread of croup?

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water. Carry germ-killing hand lotion or gel with you. You can use the lotion or gel to clean your hands when soap and water are not available.
  • Cover your mouth when you sneeze or cough. Sneeze and cough into a tissue or the bend of your arm. If you use a tissue, throw it away immediately and wash your hands.
  • Do not share cups, silverware, or dishes with others.
  • Stay home if you are sick.

Call your local emergency number (911 in the US) if:

  • You have severe trouble breathing.

When should I seek immediate care?

  • Your fingertips or the skin around your mouth turns blue.
  • You cannot swallow your spit and begin to drool.
  • You are severely fatigued (mentally and physically tired).

When should I call my doctor?

  • Your symptoms do not get better or get worse.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. 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.

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Learn more about Croup

Treatment options

Symptoms and treatments

Further information

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