Croup

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What is croup?

Croup is a common viral illness in children that usually occurs between the ages of 6 months and 3 years.  It is characterized by a barky, seal-like cough that is usually worse at nighttime.  It is caused by inflammation of the airway below the vocal cords.  It can also cause a hoarse voice and/or noisy breathing.  It may sound like your child is sucking in air loudly (stridor) and may even seem like they are having difficulty getting air in.  Croup often comes on suddenly in the middle or the night and can be quite frightening.  Fever often accompanies croup.

What is the treatment?

Cold air can provide dramatic relief. Take your child outdoors, appropriately dressed, and allow child to breathe cold air for 5-10 minutes.  After coming in from outside, take the child into the bathroom, turn on the hot shower and let the bathroom fill up with steam. Sit on the floor with your child and let them breathe in the hot steam for about 10-15 minutes.  If the child continues to show significant respiratory distress (breathing fast- greater than 45 times a minutes) child needs to be seen in Emergency Room.   Running a humidifier in your child’s room will also provide some symptomatic relief.  Sometimes steroids are required to alleviate the inflammation of the airway.

Do antibiotics help?

No.  As with all viral infections, antibiotics will not help to treat croup.  Tylenol or Motrin may be given if needed for fever.

How long does it last?

Croup is usually the worst the first three nights.  The total duration is 4-5 days but the first three nights are typically the worse.  The fever should resolve within 72 hours.