What is croup?

Croup is a throat inflammation that affects the larynx (voice box) and trachea (windpipe). It is characterized by a barking cough and high-pitched sounds made during inhalation (stridor). The cough tends to get worse at night. Croup is most commonly seen in young children, especially children between the ages of three months and five years.

Baby's Condition Spotlight

Croup is usually a viral infection that is most commonly caused by a parainfluenza virus, which is transmitted person-to-person by airborne droplets or contact (touch). Other viruses, such as adenovirus, the flu, and measles virus, can also cause croup. The reason you hear a high-pitched sound during inhalation is due to swelling and inflammation of the child’s airway. Left untreated or poorly controlled, croup may advance with continued swelling that can make breathing an exhausting effort, and your child may feel too tired to eat, drink or cough.

Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if your child has signs of croup and you suspect it may be caused by a recent insect sting or from inhaling a foreign object. Also seek immediate medical care (call 911) for serious symptoms, such as anxiety with an effort to breathe; bluish skin, lips, or mucous membranes; high pitched sounds during inhalation; difficulty speaking due to lack of breath; drooling; lethargy; pale or blue lips; rapid heart rate; or severe difficulty breathing (when the child seems to struggle to take a breath).

Seek prompt medical care if your child develops a fever, wheeze, or barking cough after several days of nasal stuffiness, or if your child is being treated for croup, but manageable symptoms recur or are persistent.

SYMPTOMS

What are the symptoms of croup?

Symptoms of croup largely affect the upper respiratory tract, in particular the larynx (voice box) and trachea (windpipe). Symptoms are usually mild to moderate and manageable at home, resembling a mild cold for the first several days. As the cough worsens and the airway becomes more swollen, breathing becomes more labored and symptoms may evolve into a bark-like cough and stridor, a harsh whistling sound heard during inspiration (breathing in). Most cases resolve within a week, but the first few nights of coughing can be very uncomfortable.... Read more about croupsymptoms

CAUSES

What causes croup?

Croup is usually a viral infection. It is most often caused by a parainfluenza virus, which is transmitted person-to-person or by airborne droplets. Croup can also be caused by other viruses, such as adenovirus, influenza, measles, and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). In addition, nonviral causes of croup, although rare, include acid reflux, allergies, bacterial infections, or the inhalation of an irritant.... Read more about croupcauses

TREATMENTS

How is croup treated?

Croup is often effectively treated at home with acetaminophen for discomfort and fever reduction, if needed. Cough medicines should be avoided unless your child’s health care practitioner directs you otherwise. Steam or cool night air often helps relieve symptoms. For escalated symptoms, prescription medications may be helpful, and serious cases may require hospitalization for supplemental oxygen therapy. However, most cases resolve within a week and require little or no medication.... Read more about crouptreatments

Medical Reviewer: All content has been reviewed by board-certified physicians under the direction of Rich Klasco, M.D., FACEP. Last Annual Review Date: May 2, 2011 Copyright: © Copyright 2011 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Infections and Contagious Diseases


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