Croup is a viral infection of the airway below the vocal cords. It is usually part of a cold. The symptoms of croup can include a barking seal cough, a hoarse voice, and a harsh raspy sound when the child breathes in (called stridor.) Croup usually lasts 3 or 4 days and generally gets worse at night. The worst symptoms of croup are usually seen in children younger than 3 years old.
You can help to make your child more comfortable by doing any or all of the following treatments at home:
- Keep your child’s room humidified by running a cool mist humidifier in his or her room.
- If your child has a sudden worsening of his cough or stridor, steam up the bathroom by running hot water in the shower with the bathroom door closed. Then let your child play or rest in the steamy bathroom for about 10 or 15 minutes.
- If your child is still uncomfortable after breathing the bathroom steam, allow him or her to breathe fresh air by going outside or standing at an open door or window.
Cough medicines are usually not as helpful with a croupy cough as the above suggestions. If your child has a fever, you may give him or her acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin.)
Because croup is a viral illness, it cannot be treated with antibiotics. However, some children with croup may benefit from use of an oral steroid medication called Orapred. If your child has a difficult first or second night with croup symptoms, it might be worth having him or her seen in the office the next day to consider whether this medicine might be helpful.
Call our office immediately if your child has an attack that lasts for 20 minutes despite trying the above suggestions, your child’s lips turn blue or dusky, your child develops retractions (tugging in between the ribs when breathing,) or your child develops drooling, spitting, or great difficulty with swallowing.