What is croup?
Croup is swelling in the windpipe and voice box. It’s caused by a virus infection and is most common in children ages 6 months to 3 years.
Children with croup have a cough that sounds like a seal barking
Children may make a loud squeaking noise when breathing in (stridor) and have a fever and runny nose
Most children get better at home in 3 to 4 days, but some need to be hospitalized
Call your child’s doctor right away if your child has trouble breathing.
When should my child see a doctor for croup?
Call your child’s doctor right away if your child has any of these warning signs:
Blue lips or fingers (from low oxygen in the blood)
What causes croup?
Croup is caused by several different viruses. Your child can get croup any time of year, but croup is less common in the summer.
What are the symptoms of croup?
Symptoms of croup are often worse at night and may even wake your child up.
At first, your child has cold symptoms such as:
Slight fever (100° to 101° F or 37.8° to 38.3° C )
Later, your child may have:
Frequent cough that sounds like a seal barking
After 3 to 4 days, the cough may change to sound more like a normal cough.
With severe croup, your child may also have:
A loud squeaking sound when breathing in (stridor)
Sometimes, a blue color around the lips from low oxygen levels in the blood
How do doctors tell if my child has croup?
Doctors can usually tell if your child has croup based on the child’s symptoms, especially the barking sound of the cough. Doctors will:
Sometimes, do x-rays of your child’s neck and chest
How do doctors treat croup?
For mild croup, doctors will treat your child at home with:
Clear fluids such as water or juice
Cool-mist humidifier to moisten the air
To help ease coughing, try one of the following:
Run a hot shower in your bathroom to create steam your child can breathe
Take your child outside to breathe cold night air
Have your child breathe cold air from the open freezer
Most children with mild croup will feel better in 3 to 4 days.
If your child has trouble breathing, go to the hospital's emergency department. There, doctors will give your child fluids by vein and medicines such as:
A corticosteroid by mouth or in a shot
Epinephrine through a nebulizer
A nebulizer is an electric or battery-powered machine that turns liquid medicine into a fine spray that you child can easily breathe in through a face mask.
If your child's symptoms get better, doctors may send your child home.
If your child still has trouble breathing, doctors will keep your child in the hospital. Usually doctors will continue to:
Measure the oxygen level in your child’s blood by placing a sensor on the finger (pulse oximetry)
Give extra oxygen through a face mask if your child’s oxygen level is too low
Continue giving medicines by nebulizer and by vein