In Health Library

Croup is a spasm (tightening of the muscles) around the larynx (voice box). This spasm causes frightening sounds. Your child will have a cough that sounds like a seal barking. When your child breathes in you will hear a high-pitched rasping sound. The voice may be hoarse.

Croup may come on suddenly in the night and is usually caused by a virus. Usually croup causes breathing problems in children 2-6 years old. A child that has it once probably will have it again. The best thing parents can do is to be prepared.

What You Will See

• The hollow in the child ‘s neck may “pull in.”

• His chest may “pull in” when he breathes in.

• His face will be pale.

• He will look “frightened”.

This happens because your child cannot move air in and out of his lungs easily.

Stay Calm

Croup is frightening to the child. A crying, upset child tends to make the croup worse. Parents can help to relieve croup by being calm themselves, which helps to quiet the child. This relieves the tightness of the voice box and allows the child to breathe easier.

What You Should Do

1. Stay calm.

2. Take your child to the bathroom and shut the door. Turn on the shower and hot water faucets to make steam. Be careful to keep away from the hot water.

3. Sit with the child and let him breathe in the steam.

4. Do not leave the child alone.

5. Have someone start a vaporizer in the child’s room.

6. When breathing is easier for the child (10-15 minutes), give him a popsicle. Later give the child more clear fluids to drink. This will help to keep the throat moist.

After a Visit to the Emergency Department

Your child has had a breathing treatment with a medicine that reduces the swelling in his throat. After you get him home he may have the same breathing problem he had when you brought him in. If this happens, take him into a steamy bathroom as explained above.

You can treat his fever (if temperature is above 102° rectally) with Tylenol/ Tempera: teaspoons or droppers, or with baby aspirin.

When to Call the Doctor

Call your child’s Pediatrician or Emergency Room:

• If child does not improve after being in a steamy bathroom for 10-15 minutes.

• If child’s breathing becomes more difficult (chest continues to “pull in”).

• If child begins to drool.

• If child has difficulty swallowing.

If you have any questions, please call the Emergency Room or your Pediatrician.

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