Your Child And Croup: Frequently Asked Questions

According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, croup is a common illness that impacts approximately 3 percent of children in the United States each year. Typically, children between the ages of six months to three years of age will suffer from croup, but it can still attack your older children. If your child is losing sleep while suffering from croup, or you simply want to be informed about this common illness, here are a few frequently asked questions you might have:

What Is Croup?

Croup is a generic term that is used to describe an illness that impacts the vocal cords, trachea and bronchial tubes and leads to a telltale cough. In most cases, croup is caused by RSV, or respiratory syncytial virus, the flu, parainfluenza and the measles. However, your child could exhibit symptoms of croup if they have seasonal allergies or even acid reflux.

The distinctive cough that occurs when your child suffers from croup is produced when air attempts to travel through the swollen trachea and through the vocal cords. For many parents, the first sign of croup is the cough, and it typically is the one symptom that keeps both them and their infected child up at night.

What Are the Symptoms of Croup?

Once again, the distinctive cough that sounds like a seal barking is most common symptom associated with croup. However, there are others, including:

  • Difficulty swallowing or drooling
  • Faster rate of breathing, which is caused by a lack of oxygen making it through the swollen trachea and vocal cords
  • Trouble breathing
  • A bluish tint around your child's fingernails, nose and mouth, which is one again caused by a lack of oxygen
  • Slight fever
  • Hoarse voice

How Should I Treat Croup?

The best way to help your child battle the croup is to first contact a primary care physician at a clinic like Rural Health Services Consortium Inc. Your doctor will want you to bring your child in for a visit so they can make the diagnosis. Typically, your doctor will make this diagnosis by listening to your child's cough, examining their throat and potentially, ordering tests — such as an X-ray — to rule out any other illnesses.

In the majority of cases, your child will not require any treatment at all. Typically, the croup resolves itself in a matter of days. Placing a cool air humidifier in your child's room and providing them with an OTC pain reliever can help them feel more comfortable and quiet their cough.

However, in more extreme cases, or if your child simply cannot seem to shake their cough, their doctor might prescribe a steroid to help bring down the swelling in their upper respiratory system. Additionally, if the cough is severe and your child is having trouble sleeping, their doctor might also prescribe a cough syrup.

In the most severe cases, which are very rare, your child might need to spend the night in the hospital, especially if they are having trouble breathing.

When Should I Be Concerned?  

Once again, in the majority of cases, your doctor will simply recommend taking your child home, monitoring their cough and making sure they get plenty of rest and drink a lot of fluids. While your child recovers, it is important to watch for other symptoms that could be the sign of a more serious illness, including:

  • Trouble speaking or breathing
  • High fever
  • Inability to swallow, which is often accompanied by excessive drooling
  • Begins to turn a bluish or grayish color from lack of oxygen

If your child begins exhibiting any of these symptoms, don't hesitate to contact an ambulance right away.

The croup is a common childhood illness that typically only lasts a few days. If you suspect your child has croup, or if you have any further questions, don't hesitate to contact your primary care physician.