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Croup is a viral infection that affects your child's airway near the voice box (larynx) and windpipe (trachea).
The virus makes this area red and swollen. This makes breathing difficult for your child. Croup lasts about seven days and often goes along with a cold.
Croup most often affects infants to children age 3 years old. Your child can get croup more than once. Croup spreads easily through contact with a sick child's mouth
Because this is a virus, antibiotics won't help.
Symptoms of croup are:
- dry, barking cough (sounds like a seal)
- crowing sound (stridor) during a deep breath in
- hoarse voice and sore throat
- breathing problems
- your child's chest bones and/or ribs showing when she breathes
- cough gets worse at night.
How to make your child feel more comfortable
- If your child wakes up during the night with a cough and shortness of breath, take her into the bathroom. Close the doors and windows. Start a hot shower. Sit in the bathroom — away from the water — and cuddle your child. The steam will loosen the mucus from your child's swollen airways. Never leave her alone in the bathroom while the hot water is on. Stay in the bathroom for about 15 minutes.
- Take your child outside or open a window for 10 to 15 minutes. Cool air may help your child breathe easier. Dress him warmly for a short walk, or drive with your vehicle's windows rolled down.
- Give your child lots of clear liquids. Try diluted apple or white grape juice, 7-Up,® water, Pedialyte,® or Kool-Aid®. This will help clear his congestion.
- Try to have your child rest as much as possible.
- Use a humidifier with a cool mist. Use distilled water, if possible. Be sure to empty and clean the humidifier each day.
- Keep your child away from secondhand smoke.
- Give your child acetaminophen (Tylenol) to reduce a fever. Follow your health care provider's or the package directions.
When to call your health care provider
Call your health care provider for an appointment if your child has:
- problems breathing
- rapid breathing (60 to 80 breaths each minute)
- wheezing (stridor) that won't go away
- "flaring" or widening nostrils when breathing
- pale or bluish color to her skin, fingers, nails or lips
- a temperature higher than 103 degrees F.
When to call 911 or go to the emergency room
Call your health care provider or go to a hospital emergency room or clinic urgent care if your child:
- seems to be getting tired or listless from breathing
- has problems swallowing
- drools or cannot swallow her saliva
- sits forward with her mouth open
- panics because breathing is difficult.