Croup is a common infection for children, seen by many parents. It refers to an infection of the upper airways, most often a form of parainfluenza virus, that can obstruct breathing, causing a characteristic barking cough.
How is Croup Contracted?
Your child could contract the virus by coming into contact with the respiratory droplets that come from the coughs and sneezes of an infected person. The virus can also survive for a time lying on the surfaces of toys and other areas of the home, so be sure to disinfect your home frequently if you have had sick children in your home. If your child comes in contact with any contaminants and then touches their face, an infection can easily begin to spread.
Children are at the highest risk of getting croup between 6 months and 3 years old. Only in a small number of children does the airway swell enough to cause trouble with breathing. Although this is rare, an additional bacterial infection can follow croup, causing worse symptoms that require immediate medical care. There are only a few children who will need to go to the emergency room for croup, but you should watch for any troubling symptoms such as difficulty breathing.
The most common symptom that a parent may need to look for is croup’s signature barking cough that it causes in the child. Other frequent symptoms include fever, runny nose, and a high-pitched “creaking” or whistling sound (or stridor) when breathing in. Most cases of croup are mild and can be managed at home with simple bed rest and over-the-counter medicine. However, you should contact your healthcare provider if your child’s symptoms are severe or getting worse, or if the illness has lasted more than 3-5 days and isn’t helped with home treatment.
When to Seek Medical Attention
You may also want to seek immediate medical attention if you notice any of the following symptoms:
- High-pitched, noisy sounds both when breathing (both in and out)
- Drooling more than usual or troubles with swallowing
- Anxiety and agitation or fatigue and listlessness
- Breathing faster than usual
- Struggles with normal breathing
- Cyanosis, or skin that appears blue or grayish around the mouth, nose, or on fingernails
Correct handwashing is one way to prevent croup. It is also wise to disinfect toys and surfaces in your home daily, especially when there may have been sick children in your home. You can also help prevent the spread of croup when you teach your child to cover their mouth when they sneeze or cough.
If your child is experiencing symptoms of croup, please consult your pediatrician.
The information and content on our website should not be used as a substitute for medical treatment or advice from your doctor.