Croup is a viral infection of the vocal cords, voice box (larynx), and windpipe (trachea). It is usually part of a cold. Croup usually lasts for 5 or 6 days and is worst at night. It can change from mild to severe several times, and the worst symptoms are seen in children under the age of three. A hoarse voice and tight, low-pitched, barky cough occurs. In severe cases, a harsh, raspy, vibrating sound called stridor occurs during breathing, and inhalation becomes difficult.
First Aid for Attacks of Stridor with Croup:
If your child suddenly develops stridor or tight breathing, try the following first aid techniques. Most children settle down after these treatments and sleep through the night.
Inhalation of Warm Mist. Warm, moist air seems to work best to relax the vocal cords and break the stridor. Have your child breathe through a warm, wet washcloth placed loosely over the mouth and nose. Alternatively, fill a humidifier with warm water and have your child breathe deeply from the stream of humidity.
The Foggy Bathroom. Have a hot shower running with the bathroom door closed. Once the room is fogged up, take your child in for at least 10 minutes to help relieve the stridor.
Home Care for a Croupy Cough:
Humidifier. Dry air usually makes coughs worse. Keep the child’s bedroom humidified if you have a humidifier. Run the humidifier 24 hours daily, or have wet sheets or towels hanging in your child’s room.
Warm, Clear Fluids for Coughing Spasms. Sticky mucus caught on the vocal cords often causes coughing spasms. Warm apple juice, herbal tea, or lemonade may help relax the vocal cords and loosen the mucus.
Avoid Smoke Exposure. Smoke can worsen croup, so do not let anyone smoke around your child.
Cough Medicine. Medicines are less helpful than either mist or swallowing warm fluids. Older children can be given honey, maple syrup or corn syrup but children under the age of 1 should never be given honey. Acetaminophen or ibubrofen can be used to relieve a fever.
Close Observation. Observe your child carefully, especially during sleep as croup can be a dangerous disease.
Contagiousness. The viruses that cause croup are contagious until the fever is gone or at least until 3 days into the illness. Since spread of this infection can’t be prevented, your child can return to school or child care once they feel better.
Call our Office IMMEDIATELY if . . .
- Breathing becomes difficult when your child is not coughing.
- Your child develops drooling, spitting, or difficulty swallowing.
- Your child develops retractions (tugging in) between the ribs.
- The warm mist fails to clear up stridor in 20 minutes.
- Your child starts acting very sick or listless.
Call our office during regular hours if . . .
- A fever lasts more than 3 days.
- Croup lasts more than 10 days.
- You have other questions or concerns.