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Causes, Symptoms and Treatment of Croup In Children

Croup is an infection that causes inflammation in the trachea and voice cords. This illness is common in toddlers under the age of five. Here is some information that will help parents better understand croup in children.

What causes croup?

Croup in children is usually caused by a parainfluenza virus (a respiratory virus). But, it can also be caused by allergies, bacteria and inhaled irritants. Croup is transmittable and because children still have weak immune systems, close contact (through coughing, sneezing or holding something an infected person touched) with infected people can also trigger croup.

What are the signs and symptoms?

Symptoms of croup are very similar to common cold – a runny nose, sore throat, fever and irritability. But because croup causes swelling in the throat and voice box, it changes the sound of a toddler’s cough. It develops into a loud, harsh, barking cough (similar to a seal’s bark), a hoarse voice and noisy breathing (a high-pitched breathing sound called a stridor). Croup appears after a few days of cold symptoms and gets worse in the middle of the night and if a toddler is in distress.

How is it diagnosed?

Fortunately, it is easy to detect croup. The doctor can just listen to your toddler over the phone or examine your toddler and asking about the symptoms. In addition, the doctor may place a pulse oximeter on your toddler’s earlobe, finger or toe to assess if sufficient oxygen is reaching the blood.

How is croup treated?

Croup is worst the first 2 to 3 nights but the illness usually goes away within a week. Even though your toddler’s coughing can be alarming, home remedies can treat coup. The following remedies can help ease croup:

Breathing In Moist Air

Take your little one into the bathroom, run hot water in the bath tub or shower and sit in the room for 15 to 20 minutes. The warm moist air will help reduce inflammation in the airways and make breathing easier. You can also take your toddler out into the cool night air for 10 minutes. But be sure to dress your toddler in warm clothes to keep him from feeling cold which can exacerbate croup. In addition, using a cool-mist humidifier in your toddler’s bedroom can keep his room humid and help him sleep better at night.

Staying Upright

Keep your toddler in an upright position. Have him sit on a chair or add some extra pillows to keep your toddler’s head elevated during sleep making it easier for your little one to breathe.


Make sure your toddler is getting plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration. You may offer your toddler water, chamomile tea with honey, clear soups, crushed ice drinks and popsicles frequently throughout the day.

Pain Reliever

If your doctor approves, you can give your toddler acetaminophen or ibuprofen to reduce the fever and lessen the swelling in the throat. Never give him antibiotics and cough medicine as these will be ineffective.

Keep Your Toddler Comfortable

It is very important to keep your toddler calm. Do not panic. Keep your little one relaxed by reading him stories, singing songs, cuddling and sleeping. The lesser he cries, the better he can breathe.

Croup in children is not as dangerous as it was once. But, if you notice signs of dehydration, drooling, retractions and a high fever, call 911 immediately.

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