Croup is a viral illness that causes fever and inflammation of the upper airway. This inflammation causes the “barky” or seal‐like cough. The swelling can also make the airway so narrow that they have noisy breathing even without coughing and this is called stridor. The cough is usually worse at nighttime and can be very scary for the family.
Children are more likely to get croup between 6 months and 3 years of age. After 3 years of age, the airway is larger, so the swelling typically does not cause any significant trouble. Like other viral respiratory illnesses, it can last for a week but typically there are just 2‐3 nights of significant coughing and the fever usually does not last for more than 72 hours.
Croup can be scary, but it is important to stay calm because the more calm your child is, the more comfortable he will be able to breath. Warm moist air can help with the stridor. Run a hot shower in the bathroom with the door closed and sit with your child for at least 10 minutes. A humidifier in the room while sleeping will also help as well. If your child does not improve and has stridor at rest (as opposed to when he is crying, agitated, or coughing), then he needs to be evaluated and may need steroids to decrease the swelling. Like other viruses, antibiotics will not make this illness better.
Please call the office immediately if your child is having any difficulty breathing.