Croup is an infection that affects the respiratory system specifically the larynx, trachea and the bronchial tubes in the lung. It is usually due to virus and bacterial infection. It is characterized by obstruction of breathing and a barking cough. There is swelling around the vocal cords, windpipe or trachea and bronchial tubes.
Coughing forces air through this narrow passage and produce a noise like a barking seal and taking a breath results to a high-pitched whistling sound or stridor. Infants and children are susceptible to croup.
Causes of croup
- Bacterial infection
- Viral infection due to the parainfluenza virus
- Measles, adenovirus and influenza
- Inhaling irritants
- Acid reflux from the stomach
- Loud barking cough like the sound of a seal barking
- Coughing due to cold and flu symptoms
- Severe coughing
- Symptoms are severe at night
- Agitated and irritable
- The vocal cords become swollen and the airways are narrowed
- Sore throat and fever
- Difficulty breathing and a harsh sound when inhaling or stridor
- The symptoms last for about 5-6 nights and usually the most severe in the first 2 nights.
- Symptoms that last more than a week needs to be treated immediately since there might be an underlying condition that causes the symptoms.
- Difficulty sleeping and need to sleep in an upright position
- The skin turns bluish
- Bring the affected child to a steamy room. Close doors and windows of the bathroom. Run the shower in hot setting. Let the child sit inside the bathroom and instruct him/her inhale the hot steam coming from the shower for relief from the congestion. Another alternative is exposing the child to the cool air at night and using a cool air vaporizer near the bed of for relief from the symptoms.
- Take the prescribed medications to lessen the swelling in the upper airways such as corticosteroids that are taken orally or by injection. If croup is caused by bacteria, use the prescribed antibiotic.
- If there is a foreign object responsible for the obstruction of the airways, there is a need to place a tube into the larynx via the mouth or nose.
- Drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration.
- Place a damp and cold cloth around the throat to lessen the swelling and pain.
- Take the prescribed over-the-counter pain medications such ibuprofen or acetaminophen to lessen the fever and sore throat.
- Avoid exposure to irritants such as smoking to prevent making the condition worse.
- Avoid direct contact with other infected children.
- Maintain personal hygiene such as frequent washing of hands to prevent the spread of infection.
- Take the needed vaccination for diphtheria, HIV and measles to prevent the risk of developing croup.
- Increase the amount of fluids to prevent dehydration.
Disclaimer / More Information
The material posted on this page on croup is for learning purposes only. Learn to recognize and manage this respiratory condition by taking a first aid and CPR class with one of our training providers.