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Newborn Medical Series: Croup

Croup is the term doctors use for a group of infections that affect the trachea, the main airway through which we breathe. Croup is common in children between six months and three years of age. It is uncommon after the age of six years. Croup causes a cough that sounds like a seal barking. In most children, group goes away on its own, but some children with croup need to be seen by a doctor or nurse.


Croup usually begins like a regular cold. Children who get croup start off by getting a runny nose and feeling a little stuffy. After a day or two later, they usually have other symptoms:

  • A cough that sounds like a seal barking or a frog croaking. We found a great example on this YouTube video

  • Become horse, lose their voice or get a scratchy voice

  • Get a fever

  • Start having noisy, high-pitched breathing (called stridor) , especially when they are active or upset

  • Symptoms are usually worse at night

When to Call the Doctor

If you suspect your child may have croup, always contact your pediatrician. Many children get over croup on their own, but some occasionally need a little extra help. When in doubt, always contact your child’s pediatrician.

Signs you may need to call the doctor:

  • Your child’s cough won’t go away

  • Your child starts to drool or can’t swallow

  • Your child makes a noisy, high-pitched sound when breathing even while just sitting or resting

  • Your child seems to be working hard to breathe

  • Your baby is younger than 3 months and has a fever

  • Your child is older than 3 months and has a fever longer than 2 days

  • Your child has symptoms of croup that lasts longer than 5 days

If your child turns blue, has a difficult time breathing, seems sleepy and unresponsive, call 911.


The main treatments for croup are aimed at making sure that your child is getting enough oxygen. To do that, the doctor or nurse might give your child moist air or oxygen to breathe. They may also prescribe medicines to reduce swelling or open up the airways. The doctor will probably not offer antibiotics, because croup is caused by viruses, and antibiotics do not work on viruses.

If your child seems like they might be able to fight the infection at home, your doctor may also recommend the following things to help their illness:

  • Sit in the bathroom with your child while the hot water is running in the shower, creating steam. You could also use a humidifier in your child’s bedroom.

  • Have your child breathe outdoor air, if it is cold out. You can do this by opening a window for a few minutes. Wrap your child in a blanket to keep them warm.

  • Treat your child’s fever with over-the-counter medication, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Check out our guide to giving these medication’s here.

  • Make sure your child gets enough fluids.

  • If your child is older than one year, feed him or her warm clear liquids to soothe the throat and help loosen mucus.

  • Keep your child away from people who are smoking, smoking makes things worse.


Since croup is caused by a virus, prevention is the same as preventing other viruses. Handwashing, staying away from other people who may be sick, and making sure your child gets all recommended vaccines will help your child keep from getting croup.

We found another great YouTube video on Croup here.

As always- like, comment, and share!

Jeri Ford, RN, BSN, CPN


Up To Date, Inc

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