Croup: What to Know

Is that a seal in your house, or is it just your child coughing from the other room? If you’re hearing some unusual barking, it may be possible that your little one has contracted the common illness croup. Croup is an upper respiratory infection most often seen in children from late fall to early spring. While there are a handful of viruses that can cause croup, this cough is most commonly associated with parainfluenza. Parainfluenza, which is not related to influenza, is a virus that infects a child’s throat and voice box, causing their windpipe to swell. When air is pushed through this area during a cough, it causes the classic “barking” noise that croup is known for. Along with coughing, infected children can expect to get fevers, runny noses, swollen lymph nodes, and they may feel tired and irritable.

Although croup is common, it is not without its dangers. When the swelling that occurs in their throat becomes severe, it can start to affect their ability to breathe. Since a lot of children won’t know how to tell you that they are struggling, it’s important to learn the signs of breathing difficulties. These may include stridor, which is a loud high-pitched sound when they inhale. They also might have retractions, where the skin appears to suck in between their ribs or above their sternum. In severe cases, you might notice their lips turning blue or their chest sucking inward when breathing and they may have difficulty swallowing food or liquids.

If these severe symptoms are seen, it is important to get your child care right away. Treatment for croup may range from oral steroids by mouth for mild infections to injections of steroids, humidified oxygen, and possibly intubation to assist with breathing. Fortunately, most infections get better on their own, and your child can be treated at home. However, it is important to have your child seen if they experience any of the signs or symptoms discussed above. Also, croup is contagious, so it’s important to keep your child away from other children while they are sick and encourage all children to wash their hands regularly even if they aren’t ill themselves. Remember, it’s the little things that will help keep your kids healthy and your home happy this fall!

If you suspect your child has croup, don’t hesitate to stop by one of our clinics or make an appointment.