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Croup FAQs

What is croup?

  • Croup often develops due to an inflammation of the upper airways, specifically in the voice box (larynx) and windpipes (trachea) which often leads to a rough, barking cough or hoarseness, causing the airways to narrow and restrict breathing, especially when a child cries.
  • What causes croup?
    Most cases of croup are caused as a result of common-cold viruses. It is very contagious and can be passed to others through close contact and airborne germs, such as those expelled by coughing and sneezing.
  • What are the symptoms?
    In addition to croup’s harsh cough, children may be hoarse and have mild breathing problems. Sitting up straight sometimes makes it easier to breathe. While croup is certainly uncomfortable, most cases do not keep children from participating in normal physical activities.
  • How is croup treated?
    Most cases of viral croup are mild. Try to keep your child calm during a croup attack, since crying or gasping can worsen the swelling of the windpipe. Moist or cool air seems to have a soothing effect on the throat. Try having your child sit in a warm, steamy bathroom. Cool night air may also help, but be sure to keep your child warmly clothed when outside.

Keep your child hydrated with water, ice, or popsicles. This will also help keep the throat moist; dryness can irritate and worsen the throat. Keep your child away from airborne irritants, such as cigarette smoke, and avoid over-the-counter cough or cold medicines, which do not help croup.

Emergency signs are if your child is making high pitched noises while breathing in with each breath. Please seek emergency immediately.