Croup symptoms – Croup is a viral infection of the voice box and windpipe that occurs mainly in young children, though croup in adults is also possible. Characterized by a harsh, barking cough and a hoarse voice, Croup usually lasts three to five days.
Most cases of croup are mild and may receive treatment at home with simple measures such as humidified air and increased fluids. More severe cases may require hospitalization and treatment with steroids or other medications.
While croup can be uncomfortable for a child, it is usually not severe and will resolve on its own in a few days. However, if the child has difficulty breathing, parents should seek medical attention immediately. Croup can occasionally lead to pneumonia or other complications, so it is essential to monitor the child closely.
Croup often happens due to viruses, such as parainfluenza virus, influenza virus, or adenovirus. These viruses infect the upper airway, causing inflammation and swelling. This condition can lead to a restricted airway and difficulty breathing. In some cases, bacteria may also cause croup.
Several factors increase a child's risk of developing croup, including:
- Age: Croup is most common in children between three months and three years old. However, croup in adults may also develop.
- Season: Croup occurs more often in the fall and winter.
- Exposure to tobacco smoke: Children exposed to tobacco smoke (from cigarettes, cigars, or pipes) are more likely to develop croup.
- Previous respiratory infections: Children who have had other respiratory infections, such as a cold or the flu, are more likely to develop croup.
While most cases of croup are mild and resolve on their own, some children may develop complications, such as pneumonia or difficulty breathing. In rare cases, croup can be fatal. If a child is having difficulty breathing, seek medical attention immediately.
Croup can also lead to recurrent episodes (spasmodic croup), common in children who have allergies or underlying medical conditions such as asthma. Spasmodic croup usually occurs at night and can be frightening for both the child and the parents. However, it is not severe and will resolve on its own. If the child has spasmodic croup, a parent can try using a humidifier in the child's room at night and calm them during attacks. If the episodes are severe or frequent, the child may need treatment with steroids or other medication.
The most common croup symptom is a harsh, barking cough. This cough is often worse at night. Other symptoms of croup include:
- Stridor (a high-pitched noise when breathing in)
These croup symptoms usually last for three to five days. In some cases, the child may have mild difficulty breathing. However, if the child has severe difficulty breathing, seek medical attention immediately.
Croup disease is usually diagnosed based on the child's symptoms. A doctor may perform a physical exam and, in some cases, a test called a laryngoscopy. This test involves inserting a small camera into the child's mouth to look at the voice box and windpipe.
Croup treatment may happen at home with simple measures, such as increased fluids and humidified air. A cool-mist humidifier or steam vaporizer can help to ease symptoms. It is essential to keep the humidifier clean to prevent the growth of bacteria and mold.
A person can also try sitting in the bathroom with the shower running hot water for several minutes. The steam will help to open up the airway and ease breathing.
If a child has difficulty breathing, parents should seek medical attention immediately. In some cases, hospitalization may be necessary. Hospital treatment usually involves giving the child steroids to reduce inflammation. In severe cases, the child may need oxygen or assistance with breathing.
There is no specific prevention for croup. However, there are some general measures a person can take to reduce their child's risk of developing respiratory infections:
- Wash hands often and encourage the child to do the same.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Keep the child away from tobacco smoke.
- Get the flu vaccine every year
- Consider getting the pneumococcal vaccine for the child if they are at high risk for developing pneumonia, including children with certain medical conditions, such as heart disease, sickle cell disease, or a weakened immune system.
- Consider getting a pertussis (whooping cough) vaccine. Pertussis can cause a severe form of croup.