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Croup

What is croup?

Croup is a condition where the trachea (the tube carrying air to the lungs) and the vocal cords are swollen and may have some muscle spasm.

What causes croup?

It's usually caused by a virus.

What are the symptoms of croup?

Croup causes a hoarse, barky cough (like the barking of a seal) and noisy breathing. Fever, runny nose, and a hoarse voice may also be present.

How do children get croup?

If your child's croup was caused by a virus, it may have easily been "caught" from someone who has a cold or respiratory infection. Your child can get it or give it to someone else by direct contact — cuddling or touching something (clothes, hands, tables) that has been coughed or sneezed on.

How do you treat croup?

Your doctor might order:

  • X-rays to determine how severe the illness is.
  • Mucous collection to determine if the infection is caused by a virus.
  • Cool mist tent (with oxygen if needed) to decrease swelling.
  • A monitor, if needed, to watch the heart rate and to watch for the need for oxygen.
  • Aerosol breathing treatments to open the airways and make breathing easier.
  • An IV (intravenous line) if your child has difficulty breathing and can't drink safely.
  • Steroid therapy to decrease inflammation of the airways.
  • Antibiotics if he/she thinks your child might have a bacterial infection. (Generally antibiotics are not used with a virus.)

Nurses will:

  • Encourage your child to rest.
  • Try to keep calmness and quiet around the child.
  • Encourage fluids when the child is ready.
How long does croup last?

The croupy cough usually lasts 3 to 10 days, but some viruses cause coughing that last up to 6 weeks.

What happens after the hospital?
  • Remember to wash your hands before and after touching a person with an infection or the things around them.
  • Encourage your child to rest in a position that lets him or her breath easiest.
  • Encourage your child to drink plenty of fluids.
Call the doctor immediately if your child:
  • Can't stop coughing after 10 minutes in a hot steamy bathroom.
  • Has more noisy breathing.
  • Has fever greater than 101°F.
  • Has more difficulty finding a comfortable position to breath.
  • Lips or nails become bluish.
  • Shortness of breath is worse.
  • Refuses to drink fluids.
  • Is not making urine at least six times a day.

From the Parent/Patient Education Series
Holmes Regional Medical Center Pediatric Services

Peds: Pt Ed 5. Reviewed 4/98, 6/00.