Croup is a common childhood infection of the larger breathing tubes of the lungs and windpipe (trachea). The same virus that sometimes produces laryngitis in adults causes croup. The swelling that occurs in the trachea produces narrowing of the air passages and thus the harsh, dry, bark-like cough as air rushes past this narrow area. Sometimes the cough can be hard to control and even cause vomiting. Other symptoms include fever and runny nose.

Frequently the onset of the illness is rapid and usually during the night. Because a virus causes croup, antibiotics do not help. Medications that reduce swelling (cortisone-like drugs) will often give some relief of cough, but do not shorten the illness. Croup normally lasts three to five days and is contagious. It can also reoccur.

Home Care for Croup

  • Use a cool mist vaporizer, especially at night. It might even help to lower the room temperature by a few degrees, so long as the child is comfortably clothed.

  • Encourage your child to drink lots of fluids.

  • Acetaminophen or ibuprofen will help reduce fever.

  • Taking the child outdoors for about ten minutes usually controls persistent coughing spells. (Be sure the child is dressed warmly.) The cool air at night often soothes the throat and reduces swelling, providing some temporary relief.

  • Give any medications as directed. If cortisone-like medicines are prescribed, they usually will not show any effect for up to six hours, so follow the dosing schedule exactly.

  • Not all cases of croup require medication.


Call or Return If Any of the Following Occur:

Your child continues to cough or shows signs of difficulty breathing such as excessive chest muscle movement, fatigue or increased anxiety, you should return immediately or go directly to the hospital emergency department.

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