What is croup?
Croup is an infection of the throat and vocal cords (larynx) and it is caused by a number of different viruses. It is most common in young children under the age of 5. When it occurs in older children and adults it is called laryngitis. Croup most frequently occurs in the winter and early spring.
What are the symptoms of croup?
Croup starts with symptoms similar to a cold, then a fever and a cough develop. The lining of the throat and larynx become red and swollen. Children with croup develop a hoarse voice and a cough that sounds like a bark. Symptoms often get worse at night.
With croup, the air passage below the vocal cords becomes narrow making it difficult to move air in and out. Breathing may become very rapid and noisy. Activities that increase the rate of breathing can make the symptoms worse.
In most cases, croup sounds worse that it actually is. Children usually recover in about a week without complications, however very young children can have trouble breathing and may require medical care.
You should see a health care provider if the illness seems to be causing more serious symptoms.
How is croup spread?
The virus spreads the same way as a common cold
- by touching the hands of someone who has the infection
- by touching something that has been touched by someone who has the infection
- breathing in the virus after a person with croup has coughed or sneezed
Usually, the time it takes to show symptoms after getting infected ranges between 2 and 14 days. People with croup can spread the virus to others from the time they first start having symptoms until all of the symptoms have resolved.
How is croup treated?
As with most illnesses, rest and plenty of fluids are recommended. In very young children nasal congestion can be cleared with a bulb syringe. Saline (salt water) nose drops can be used for older children and adults.
A cool mist humidifier or breathing in the cool air outside for about 10 minutes might also help. Children who are having difficulty breathing may be treated with medications to help reduce their symptoms.
You can treat mild symptoms at home. Learn more about treating croup.
How is croup prevented?
There is no vaccine to prevent croup.
Simple preventative measures can reduce the spread of infection.