What is Croup?

Croup is a viral illness that is common in children usually 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 of the night and can be quite frightening. Fever often accompanies croup.

What is the treatment?

Steam is the best treatment for croup. Bring your child into the bathroom, turn on the hot water 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. Sometimes cool air also helps. After you sit in the steam, go outside or open the refrigerator/freezer and allow your child to breathe in the cool air. Running a humidifier in your child’s room will also help to decrease the inflammation in their airways.

If your child continues to cough or seems to be having trouble breathing they need to be taken to the emergency room. 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. After this point the cough usually begins to break up to a more productive cough that may last a week. The fever should resolve within 72 hours. 

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