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Health Information For Parents
Kids with croup have a virus that makes their airways swell. They have a telltale “barking” cough (often compared to the sound of a seal’s bark) and a raspy voice, and make a high-pitched, squeaky noise when they breathe.
Most kids with croup get better in a week or so.
At first, a child may have cold symptoms, like a stuffy or runny nose and a fever. As the upper airways — the voice box (larynx) and windpipe (trachea)— become irritated and swollen, a child may become hoarse and have the barking cough.
If the airways continue to swell, breathing gets harder. Kids often make a high-pitched or squeaking noise while breathing in — this is called stridor. They also might breathe very fast or have retractions (when the skin between the ribs pulls in during breathing). In the most serious cases, a child may appear pale or have a bluish color around the mouth due to a lack of oxygen.
Symptoms of croup are often worse at night and when a child is upset or crying.
The same viruses that cause the common cold also cause croup. Most often seen in the fall, croup can affect kids up to age 5.
There are two types of croup, viral croup and spasmodic croup, both of which cause the barking cough. Most cases of croup are viral.
Health care providers listen for the telltale cough and stridor. They’ll also ask if a child has had any recent illnesses that caused a fever, runny nose, and congestion; and if the child has a history of croup or upper airway problems.
The doctor might order a neck X-ray if the croup is severe and slow to get better after treatment. In cases of croup, an X-ray usually will show the top of the airway narrowing to a point, which doctors call a “steeple sign.”
Most cases of croup are mild and can be treated at home. Try to keep your child calm, as crying can make croup worse.
For a fever, medicine (acetaminophen or, only for kids older than 6 months, ibuprofen) may make your child more comfortable. Ask your health care provider how much to give and follow the directions carefully.
Breathing in moist air can help kids feel better. To help your child breathe in moist air:
Your child should drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration. If needed, give small amounts of liquid more often using a spoon or medicine dropper. Kids with croup also should get lots of rest.
Some kids need a breathing treatment that can be given in the hospital or a steroid medicine to reduce swelling in the airway. Rarely, kids with croup might need to stay in a hospital until they’re breathing better.
Most kids recover from croup with no lasting problems. But some kids — especially those who were born prematurely, or have asthma or other lung diseases — can be at risk for complications from croup.
Call your doctor or get immediate medical care if your child:
Croup is a viral infection that causes a telltake “barking” cough. Find out what to do if your child has croup and when to call the doctor.
The flu usually makes kids feel worse than if they have a cold. But it’s not always easy to tell the difference. Here are tips on what to look for â and what to do.
Washing your hands well and often is the best way to keep from getting sick. Here’s how to teach this all-important habit to your kids.
Coughs are a common symptom, butÂ most aren’t a sign of a serious condition. Learn about different coughs, how to help your child feel better, and when to call your doctor.
Fevers happen when the body’s internal “thermostat” raises the body temperature above normal. This is often the body’s way of fighting infections.
Colds are the most common infectious disease in the United States – and the top reason kids visit the doctor and miss school.
Flu symptoms tend to come on quickly and are worse than the sneezing and stuffiness of a cold. The flu is very contagious. Find out what to do in this article for parents.
Coughing is a healthy reflex that helps clear the airways. A severe or lingering cough requires medical treatment, but many coughs are caused by viruses that just need to run their course.
A neck X-ray can help diagnose many conditions, including stridor, croup, hoarseness due to swelling in or near the airways, and problems with tonsils and adenoids.
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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