Authored by Revere Health

Croup: Signs, Symptoms and Treatments

November 6, 2018 | Family Medicine

Typically seen in the fall and winter months and in children between six months and six years of age, croup usually follows a viral infection, such as parainfluenza or influenza. Although cases of the condition vary in severity, it’s usually not a cause for concern. Most parents can treat their children at home, but before you rely on at-home remedies, it is important that you understand which symptoms are normal and which are serious.

Signs and Symptoms of Croup

Croup is characterized by the swelling of the airways and a barking cough. It often begins as a typical cold, which is what most parents believe it is at first. Your child might have a runny nose, a slight cough and a fever. However, as the upper airways begin to swell, you may notice that your child’s voice becomes hoarse and that his or her cough goes from slight to barking. The barking might be worse at night. He or she may also become agitated and anxious as he or she loses sleep due to discomfort.

Because croup is a childhood illness characterized by swollen airways, you may notice mild signs of labored breathing. Your child may breathe faster or make a squeaking noise when exhaling. These symptoms should clear up within three to five days with careful monitoring, medication and a humidifier.

When to Call a Doctor

While most cases of croup clear up with home care, others require immediate medical attention. If your child demonstrates any of the following symptoms, call your doctor immediately:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Difficulty talking or walking without becoming out of breath
  • Stridor (fast breathing) that grows noticeably worse after day two or three
  • Pulling in of the neck or chest muscles when breathing
  • Pale or bluish tint around the mouth
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Dehydration
  • Symptoms that persist beyond three to five days

Certain children, such as infants or those with asthma, are at risk of developing complications from croup. If your child exhibits any of the above symptoms, a complication may be developing. It is important that you get your child into a doctor right away to prevent matters from becoming worse.

Treatment for Croup

The majority of croup cases resolve with home care and diligent monitoring, pain medications and a humidifier. However, if your child’s symptoms worsen, his or her doctor may prescribe a steroid to open up the airways. For extremely severe cases, your child may need to spend a few nights in the hospital, where he or she will have breathing tubes placed in the windpipe.

Though croup is a common childhood illness, it can still be scary to watch your child experience it. If your little one has developed a barking cough and exhibits labored breathing, contact your pediatrician for more information on how you can make your child more comfortable and speed up the healing process.

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“Patient education: Croup in infants and children (Beyond the Basics).” Charles R Woods, MD, MS, Up-To-Date

“Infections: Croup.” Reviewed by Joanne Murren-Boezem, MD, KidsHealth.

The Live Better Team


The Live Better Team

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This information is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. You should always consult your doctor before making decisions about your health.