Croup is a form of laryngitis or inflammation of the vocal cords and surrounding windpipe. It is commonly found in children 3 months to 4 years as part of a cold. Croup usually occurs in the late fall, winter, or early spring. The inflammation and swelling can cause difficulty in breathing.
The onset is usually sudden. The child wakes up at night with a hard, “seal-like” barking cough. It may occasionally be accompanied by wheezing and sometimes a fever. The symptoms will usually return less severely for the next night or two with recovery in the daytime.
Waking up at night and having this cough and difficulty catching one’s breath is very frightening for the child.
- Take the child outside or to an open window. Cool air will reduce the swelling of the larynx; thereby, reducing the symptoms.
- Calm the child by having the child sit on your lap and telling a story, singing, reading a favorite book, etc.
- Meanwhile, turn on the hot water in the bathroom shower and close the door to steam up the room. If the cool mist is ineffective, take the child into the bathroom to the warm mist and calm as above.
When the child is calm and breathing better put the child to bed in a room with a cool mist vaporizer. Most children will settle down after treatments. Open the bedroom window to allow some cool air in (even in the winter!) Cool air prevents swelling. Follow up with office in the morning.
Call the office if:
- If the treatments haven’t worked after 20 minutes.
- The child is having difficulty swallowing or has unexpected drooling.
- Has persistent difficulty breathing.
- The child’s lips or skin appear blue.
- If the child has an accompanying fever that does not respond to fever instructions (see Fever).