Croup is a medical condition affecting the upper airways by causing inflammation. With croup, the upper airways, which contain the larynx and trachea, gets red and inflamed. This can lead to a variety of side effects including a hoarse voice and barking or hacking cough. Croup can be caused by a variety of things, but most are caused by viruses. Viral croup is the most common type of the condition with most severe symptoms, and is more common with young children between 6 months and 3 years old than other ages. There is also a type of croup called spasmodic croup that refers to croup from a child with a mild cold.

Causes of Croup

There are many different medical conditions that can cause croup. These include a viral infection, which is the most common cause, a bacterial infection, allergies, acid reflux, or inhaling something that irritates the airway. The group of viruses called parainfluenza virus usually cause croup, though it can come from other viral infections including the influenza virus, measles, RSV, or the adenovirus. Croup is most common in children between 3 months old and 6 years old but it can occur at any age. It tends to be rare with adults. It also occurs most often between October and March in the United States.

Symptoms of Croup

The first and most common symptom of croup is called a barking cough which literally sounds like a seal barking. Many children with croup will also get other symptoms as well such as a mild cold for several days, however the barking cough is usually what parents take their child to the doctor for. The cough usually gets more frequent and possibly accompanied by labored breathing.

Diagnosing Croup

The physical examination and symptoms of the child or adult is usually the best way to diagnose croup. Doctors can even listen to the child’s cough over the phone and diagnose them with croup. Sometimes, x-rays are needed but usually a physical examination will suffice. During the physical examination, the doctor will listen to the child’s chest and listen to their breathing along with the type of cough they have.

Treating Croup

Most cases of croup can be easily and safely treated at home. If your doctor diagnoses croup over the phone by listening to your baby or child’s cough, you can treat the condition at home. The best ways to get relief for croup are putting your child in a steamy bathroom or outside in the cool night air. An air vaporizer that dispenses cool air into his or her room can also be useful for croup. To make your child me comfortable, give them Acetaminophen such as Tylenol to help lower the fever and lessen their breathing difficulties. You should seek immediate medical attention if they continue having problems breathing, fatigue, dehydration, high fever or bluish coloring in their skin.

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