Croup is a common cause of breathing problems in kids. In this article, we aim to address all your questions about croup. We will talk about the causes, diagnosis, treatment, and how you can prevent your children from getting croup.

At After Hours Kids, we understand that breathing problems in children can be very worrisome. Feel free to contact our team of pediatricians in Austin, Texas if you have any concerns.

Understanding Croup

Croup is caused by a respiratory viral infection. It gets into the airways of the throat and causes it to swell. Croup is generally identified by a “barking” cough that some liken to a seal’s bark. Your child may also have a hoarse voice and a high-pitched squeak when they breathe.

What Causes Croup?

Most cases of croup are caused by a virus. The viruses that could cause croup include the Influenza virus, Parainfluenza virus, Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), Adenovirus, and Enteroviruses.

The viral infection gets into the voice box (larynx) and windpipe and causes it to become irritated and swell. This is the cause of the hoarse voice or the barking cough that is common with croup. If the swelling in the airway continues, your child may begin to make a high-pitched whistling sound when they breathe.

Another possible cause of Croup is an allergic reaction or stomach reflux. This is called spasmodic croup.

Who is at Risk of Getting Croup?

Croup is most common in younger children, particularly those between 6 months and 3 years old. Your child is more likely to get croup during the autumn months.

Is Croup Contagious?

Yes, croup is contagious. The viruses that cause croup easily spread from one person to another. Respiratory viruses spread through droplets when coughing or sneezing. If your child touches an infected surface and then touches their eyes, nose, or mouth, then they will likely be infected.

Identifying the Symptoms Of Croup

Common croup symptoms include the following:

  • Cold like symptoms
  • Stuffy or runny nose
  • Barking cough
  • Hoarse voice
  • High-pitched squeaking noise
  • Fever

You should carefully watch your child’s symptoms to see how they develop. Severe symptoms, such as bluish or pale lips, could indicate that they are not getting enough oxygen. Sleep near your child or in the same room so that you can periodically observe their symptoms. Their symptoms will be worse at night.

When to Call a Healthcare Provider

Most children do not need medical treatment for croup. There is a higher risk, though, for those who were born early and have asthma or another lung disease.

Immediate medical attention is necessary if your child exhibits the following symptoms:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Inability to talk or walk due to severe breathlessness
  • Tightening of neck and chest muscles during breathing
  • Deteriorating wheezing sound (stridor)
  • Pallor or bluish discoloration around the mouth
  • Drooling or experiencing swallowing difficulties
  • Profound fatigue, sleepiness, or difficulty waking up
  • Signs of dehydration such as dry or sticky mouth, reduced tear production, sunken eyes, increased thirst, and decreased urination

How is Croup Diagnosed?

Croup is often identified by the telltale symptoms of the barking cough and stridor. Your child’s provider will ask you if your child has recently had a fever, congestion, or runny nose. They will also want to know if there is any history of croup or any other airway problems.

In cases of severe croup, your child’s provider may request an X-ray to look for the narrowing of the airway, called the “steeple’ sign.

How is Croup Treated?

Home treatments are usually sufficient for children with mild croup. The condition usually clears up in 3 to 7 days.

Croup treatment at home may include the following:

  • Provide comfort to keep your child calm and prevent worsening symptoms due to crying.
  • Administer acetaminophen (like Tylenol®, Panadol®, FeverAll®, or Tempra®) to lower their fever.
  • Help your child breathe easier by using a cool-mist humidifier in their room or letting them breathe in cool air.
  • Ensure your child stays hydrated.
  • Encourage plenty of rest.

In severe cases, your child may require breathing treatment at the hospital or a steroid shot to reduce swelling.

How You Can Prevent Croup

As a respiratory virus often causes croup, prevention is the same as preventing a common cold. You can help reduce the spread of croup by encouraging your child to:

  • Wash their hands frequently for at least 20 seconds a time
  • Stay away from anyone sick
  • Cough or sneeze into their elbow

Although there is no vaccine against the common cold, vaccines against the more serious upper airway infections should be taken. This would include vaccines against diphtheria and Haemophilus influenza type b (Hib).

Schedule an Appointment Today

If you’re worried about your child’s breathing, contact us at After Hours Kids. Our team in Austin, TX is available on evenings and weekends to address severe cases of croup. Book your child’s appointment now!


AHK Advanced Practice Providers

Our AHK APP’s include: Annie Croft, Pam Dietrich, Erin Moore, and Nikki Nutter,