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Croup

Croup is an infection that is caused by a virus. It can cause swelling of the upper airway, including the windpipe (trachea), voice box (larynx) and vocal cords. This swelling can lead to a hoarse voice, barky cough and sometimes difficulty breathing. It occurs most often in babies and children up to 3 years of age because their airways are smaller, but older children can also get it.

 

Croup most often happens in the fall and winter months, but it can happen in any season.

 

Seal-like, barky cough

Signs & symptoms

You might hear a high-pitched sound (sometimes as a harsh, vibrating sound) when your child breathes in – this is called stridor. Stridor can get worse when a child cries or coughs. If croup gets worse, your child may also have stridor while resting, and may have trouble breathing.

 

Croup symptoms usually start in the late evening and night and come on quite suddenly. It is not unusual for symptoms to improve during the day and then happen again the next night. Most children are better within two days, but some can have symptoms for up to a week.

What to do

Most cases of croup are mild and can be treated at home.

Symptoms can get worse when your child is excited.

Take him/her outside for several minutes, or for a car ride with the window slightly rolled down. You could also try sitting by an open window, or freezer door, but make sure your child is dressed warmly. Another option is to use a cool-mist humidifier or run a cold shower and sit with your child in the bathroom with the door closed. The cool air helps with breathing.

Give your child plenty of clear fluids or popsicles when awake. This will help restore fluids and to loosen phlegm.

Plenty of rest will help fight the infection.

*Give your child acetaminophen (such as Tylenol® or Tempra®) or ibuprofen (such as Advil® or Motrin®) for fever or discomfort. Make sure you read the instructions on the bottle before giving any medicine to your child.

TREATMENT & MANAGEMENT

What can a doctor do for croup? 

A doctor can prescribe dexamethasone – this is a steroid medicine that helps decrease the swelling in the throat, making it easier to breathe and the cough less harsh. It is given as a syrup into the mouth.

 

Some children need to stay in hospital for a couple of days to continue getting epinephrine and dexamethasone until the symptoms improve.

FIND OUT MORE

Need further assistance?

Telephone health advice is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week in Canada.

Call 8-1-1 to speak with a Registered Nurse for free.

If you live in Manitoba, call 204-788-8200 in Winnipeg or 1-888-315-9257 toll-free elsewhere in the province.

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© ECHO Research and ARCHE, 2024. This resource may not be modified, reproduced or distributed without prior written consent of ECHO Research and ARCHE. Contact shannon.scott@ualberta.ca

The information contained in this video/multimedia content (the “Multimedia”) is provided on an “as is” basis and is offered for general information and educational purposes only; it is not offered as and does not constitute professional advice. There is no guarantee about the accuracy, applicability, fitness or completeness of the information found in the Multimedia. This information is provided without warranty of any kind, and the University of Alberta, its agents, employees, and students disclaim responsibility to any party for any loss or damage of any kind that may arise directly or indirectly as a result of the use of or reliance on the information contained in the Multimedia.

Physical treatments can include physiotherapy, prescribed exercise plans, strengthening exercises, massage, and more. 

Psychological treatments can include counselling or talk therapy, supportive therapy, cognitive behaviour therapy, mediation, and more. They can be provided on a one-on-one basis or in a group setting. 

Disclaimer

The information contained in the video/multimedia content (the “Multimedia”) is provided on an “as is” basis and is offered for general information and educational purposes only; it is not offered as and does not constitute professional advice. There is no guarantee about the accuracy, applicability, fitness or completeness of the information found in the Multimedia. This information is provided without warranty of any kind, and the University of Alberta, its agents, employees, and students disclaim responsibility to any party for any loss or damage of any kind that may arise directly or indirectly as a result of the use of or reliance on the information contained in the Multimedia.

These resources may not be modified, reproduced or distributed without prior written consent of ECHO Research. Contact shannon.scott@ualberta.ca.