Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital
 

Croup

Croup

What is croup?

Croup is a disease caused by a virus, bacteria, allergies, and inhaled irritants that leads to swelling in the airways and problems breathing. A child may have stridor, which is a high-pitched sound usually heard when the child breathes in (inspiration).

What causes croup?

Croup is most commonly caused by viruses. It is sometimes, but rarely, caused by bacteria, allergies, or reflux from the stomach. Croup is caused by a variety of different viruses. The most common virus is the parainfluenza virus. Other viruses may include:

A child becomes infected through direct contact with a person, or the secretions of another person who is infected with the disease. The infection begins in the upper respiratory tract and then slowly spreads down the tract. Swelling affects the area around the voice box (larynx) and into the trachea.

Younger children are more affected by croup because their airways are smaller. Therefore, a small amount of swelling can cause a large amount of obstruction in their airways.

Facts about croup

What are the symptoms of croup?

The following are the most common symptoms of croup. However, each child may experience symptoms differently. As the disease progresses down the respiratory tract, the symptoms also change and may include:

Very often, the symptoms are worse at night and wake the child from sleep. Symptoms also seem to improve in the morning but progress as the day goes on. The extent of the disease varies for each child. Most children improve in three to seven days. The symptoms of croup may resemble other conditions and medical problems. Always consult your child's doctor for a diagnosis.

How is croup diagnosed?

In addition to a complete medical history and physical examination, diagnostic procedures for croup may include:

Treatment for croup

Specific treatment for croup will be determined by your child's doctor based on:

In severe cases of croup, or if your child is not breathing well, hospitalization may be considered. This is sometimes hard to tell because the disease fluctuates, and your child may seem better at one moment, and then get worse the next. Your child's doctor may also order the following medications to help with the symptoms of croup:

Supportive treatment at home may also include:

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