How to Treat a Child with Croup

When it comes to croup, this is one childhood illness in which the bark is usually worse than the bite.

Croup is one of those illnesses that all children seem to end up with sometime in their young lives. A virus that generally strikes between the months of November and March, croup usually affects children between the ages of six months and five years. As an illness of the upper airway, croup’s main symptom is a deep, bark-like cough that sounds much like a seal. When you hear the croup cough, it may set off alarm bells and bring images to mind of hospitalization and oxygen tents. However, in reality, croup is rarely serious explains pediatrician and editor of  The 3am Handbook, Dr. William Feldman. “Croup is an interesting condition which is virtually always accompanied by a fever. A child will wake up with a low-grade fever and a barking cough. Most of the time it goes away on it’s own.”

Treatment for most cases of croup is simple. It’s an illness that requires no medication, unless specifically recommended or prescribed by your child’s physician, explains pediatrician Dr. William James. He recommends that “if the child wakens in the middle of the night with this barky, hacky cough, turn on the shower, and steam up the bathroom really well. It will help to loosen things a bit.” Some doctors even recommend bundling children up in a blanket and standing outside where they can breath in the cool, moist air which helps reduce airway inflammation.

And while croup is generally self-limiting, Dr. James adds that there are still instances when a child’s croup takes a serious turn. “If the child starts to have some in-drawing, by that I mean that the child is sitting there at rest and has difficulty breathing and the chest muscles are drawing and sucking in, then I think that’s an indication to head to the nearest emergency department.” There a child may be treated with medication to help reduce inflammation and relieve the breathing difficulties.


Adapted from The Parent Report Radio Show. Any advice or information contained herein should never be a substitute for professional and/or medical advice, diagnosis and treatment. For more information please review Terms of Service.

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