Family Corner: What Is Croup?
Croup is a respiratory illness that most often affects young children. It can be very alarming to both parents and children because it interferes with breathing and may cause intense coughing fits.
Symptoms of Croup
Croup is typically caused by a virus. The infection causes the tissues in the trachea and larynx to swell, narrowing the airway and making it more difficult to breathe. Because children have small airways, the symptoms of croup are more pronounced and can be dangerous. Those between the ages of six months and three years are most commonly affected by croup symptoms, although a child can get croup at any age.
Croup often presents as a common cold. As the airway swells, a child will develop a hoarse voice and a loud, barking cough. Fever may be present and breathing may be labored or noisy. Symptoms often worsen at night and can be aggravated by crying and anxiety.
Severe croup is accompanied by stridor, a high-pitched breathing sound made when both inhaling and exhaling. Breathing becomes difficult.
How Croup Is Treated
Viral croup cannot be treated with antibiotics. In the majority of cases, treatment may be done at home and symptoms improve within one week. At-home treatments may include:
- Holding and comforting your child, since crying can worsen symptoms.
- Breathing warm mist for 20 minutes, such as in a closed bathroom with a hot shower running, to reduce swelling.
- Giving your child warm, clear fluids to maintain hydration.
- Using over-the-counter medication to reduce fever. Note that cold and cough medicines will not help croup.
- Keeping indoor air moist with a humidifier.
If croup symptoms persist or worsen, seek emergency medical care. A doctor may need to prescribe steroidal medication to reduce inflammation in the airway.
Get Expert Care at RediClinic
If your child’s symptoms are not severe but you’re unsure what to do, walk into your local RediClinic. Our board-certified clinicians treat patients 18 months and older inside select Rite Aid Pharmacies and H-E-B grocery stores. RediClinic is open seven days a week, including extended weekday hours.