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How to treat croup in children

Symptoms and Treatment for Your Child’s Croup

Croup is an inflammation of the voice box (larynx) and the windpipe (trachea). When a child has croup, the airway just below the vocal cords becomes narrow. This makes breathing noisy and difficult and can be quite alarming for children and parents alike.

Children are most likely to get croup between 6 months and 3 years of age. After age 3, it is not as common since the windpipe is larger and swelling is less of an issue. Croup can occur at any time of the year, but it is more common between October and March. Frequent bouts of croup should be evaluated for another cause like cough variant asthma.


Your child may have one or several of the following:

  • Loud cough – may sound like a barking seal
  • Fast or difficult breathing
  • Grunting noise or wheezing while breathing
  • May have cold-like symptoms like a stuffy or runny nose and fever
  • Constellation of symptoms usually lasts between 3-7 days

Symptoms often worsen at night or when a child is upset or crying.

What You Can Do for Your Child

  • Sit in the bathroom with the shower running on hottest setting letting the bathroom steam up
  • Use a cool-water vaporizer or humidifier in your child’s room
  • Sometimes taking your child outside (change in environmental temperature) is helpful

When to Call the Doctor

Immediately call your child’s doctor or seek medical attention if your child has any of the following symptoms:

  • Difficulty breathing, including rapid breathing, belly sinking in while breathing, or the skin between the ribs pulling in every time the child is taking a breath
  • Stridor – a loud breath sound usually heard on breathing in as well as out – especially if it is prominent when the child is not active
  • Pale or bluish color around the mouth
  • Drooling or difficulty swallowing
  • Greater inactivity than usual when ill
  • High fever
  • Very sick appearance


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