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Croup causes swelling around vocal cords and airways. Children usually get croup between 3 months and 5 years of age. It is a scary, but not usually dangerous condition. Croup often occurs several days after a child has mild symptoms of a cold.

Signs & Symptoms

•  A cough that sounds like a seal’s bark.

•  Hoarseness.

•  A harsh, crowing noise with breathing in.

Symptoms of croup can also be like symptoms of more serious problems. These include:

•  Something can be stuck in your child’s windpipe.

•  Epiglottitis. This is a bacterial infection that can cause the back of the throat to swell up. If the throat is blocked, breathing in is very difficult. Severe respiratory distress can result. Signs of epiglottitis are:

– Drooling.

– Hanging the head down.

– Sticking out the jaw to breathe.

– Fever.



Croup is usually caused by a certain virus. Other viruses, allergies, bacteria, and inhaled foreign objects, can mimic croup.

The American Academy of Pediatrics


Self-care measures can treat symptoms. Croup usually goes away in 3 to 7 days. It is usually worse at night. Emergency care is needed for severe problems breathing.

Questions to Ask

Self-Care / Prevention

•  Don’t panic. You can help your child stay calm if you stay calm. Hold your child to comfort him or her. The windpipe may open up a little if your child relaxes. Call your child’s doctor or get immediate care if you are not sure what to do.

•  Go into the bathroom with your child and close the door.

-  Turn on the hot water in the sink and shower. Let the steam fill the room.

-  Don’t put your child in the shower. Sit with your child. (Don’t sit on the floor.) Read a book or play a game with your child. This will help pass the time.

-  Open the window to let cool air in. This helps make more steam.

-  Stay in the bathroom about 10 to 15 minutes.

•  If it is cold outside, instead of using the bathroom to make steam, put a coat, etc. on your child and take him or her outside to breathe the cold night air.

•  Use a humidifier in your child’s room. Use warm, distilled water, not tap water. Clean the humidifier every day. Put a humidifier on your furnace. Change the filter often.

•  Give your child a clear liquid. Warm it first. Warm liquids may help loosen the mucus. Give babies under 6 months old water or electrolyte water, such as Pedialyte, if okay with your child’s doctor. Give water, apple juice, etc. to a child who is 6 months old or older.

•  Try to keep your child calm. Croup symptoms tend to get worse if your child is crying and upset.

To Help Prevent Croup and Other Infections

•  See that your child’s immunizations for diphtheria (DTaP), measles (MMR), and H. influenzae type b (Hib) are up-to-date.

•  Follow prevention measures in Colds & Flu.

This website is not meant to substitute for expert medical advice or treatment. Follow your doctor’s or health care provider’s advice if it differs from what is given in this guide.


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