- Viral infection of the voicebox (larynx)
- The croupy cough is tight, low-pitched, and barky (like a barking seal)
- The voice or cry is hoarse (laryngitis)
Stridor: A Complication of Croup
- Stridor is a harsh, raspy sound heard with breathing in
- Loud or continuous stridor means severe croup
- All stridor needs to be treated with warm mist
- See FIRST AID for treatment recommendations
- Usually a parainfluenza virus
Return to School
- Your child can return to day care or school after the fever is gone and your child feels well enough to participate in normal activities. For practical purposes, the spread of croup and colds cannot be prevented.
See More Appropriate Topic (instead of this one) If
First Aid Advice For Stridor (Harsh sound with breathing in) or Constant Coughing:
- Breathe warm mist in a foggy bathroom with the hot shower running for 20 minutes. Other options: a wet washcloth held near the face or a humidifier containing warm water.
- Caution: avoid very hot water or steam which could cause burns or high body temperatures.
- If warm mist fails, breathe cool air by standing near an open refrigerator or taking outside for a few minutes if the weather is cold.
WHEN TO CALL YOUR DOCTOR
Call 911 Now (your child may need an ambulance) If
- Severe difficulty breathing (struggling for each breath, unable to speak or cry because of difficulty breathing, continuous severe stridor)
- Child has passed out or has bluish lips
- Croup started suddenly after bee sting, taking a medicine or allergic food
- Child is drooling, spitting or having great difficulty swallowing (EXCEPTION: drooling due to teething)
Call Your Doctor Now (night or day) If
- NOTE: For any stridor, difficulty breathing, or severe coughing, see FIRST AID
- Stridor (harsh noise with breathing in) is present now
- Your child looks or acts very sick
- Child choked on a small object that could be caught in the throat
- Difficulty breathing (age under 1 year old) not relieved by cleaning the nose
- Difficulty breathing (age over 1 year old) present when not coughing
- Ribs are pulling in with each breath (retractions)
- Child can't bend the neck forward
- Fever over 104° F (40° C) and not improved 2 hours after fever medicine
- Age under 12 weeks with fever above 100.4° F (38.0° C) rectally (Caution: Do NOT give your baby any fever medicine before being seen.)
- Severe chest pain
- Age less than 6 months with any stridor
- You think your child needs to be seen urgently
Call Your Within 24 Hours (between 9am and 4pm) If
- Had croup before that needed Decadron
- You think your child needs to be seen, but not urgently
- Stridor (harsh noise with breathing in) occurred but not present now
- Continuous (nonstop) coughing
- Age under 1 month (EXCEPTION: coughs a few times)
- Age 1 to 3 months with a cough for over 3 days Earache is also present
- Fever present for more than 3 days
Call Your Doctor During Weekday Office Hours If
- You have other questions or concerns
- Croup is a recurrent problem (has occurred 3 or more times)
- Barky cough present over 14 days
Patient Home Care If
- Mild croup with no complications and you don't think your child needs to be seen
HOME CARE ADVICE FOR CROUP
- Most children with croup just have a barky cough.
- Some develop tight breathing (called stridor).
- Remember that coughing up mucus is very important for protecting the lungs from pneumonia.
- We want to encourage a productive cough, not turn it off.
Humidifier: If the air is dry, run a humidifier in the bedroom. (Reason: Dry air makes croup worse.)
Homemade Cough Medicine:
- From 3 months to 1 year of age, only use warm clear fluids (e.g., water or apple juice) to treat the cough. Dosage: 1-3 teaspoons (5-15 ml) four times per day when coughing. Avoid honey.
- After age 1 year, use HONEY ½ to 1 teaspoon as needed as a homemade cough medicine. It can thin the secretions and loosen the cough. (If not available, can use corn syrup.)
- After age 6, use COUGH DROPS to coat the irritated throat. (If not available, can use hard candy.)
OTC Cough Medicine (DM):
- OTC cough medicines are not recommended. (Reason: no proven benefit for children). Never use them under 4 years of age. (Reason: risk of serious side effects and not approved by FDA)
- Honey has been shown to work better for coughs.
- If you decide to use a cough medicine from your drugstore and your child is over age 4 years, choose one with dextromethorphan (DM). It's present in most OTC cough syrups.
- Indication: Give only for severe coughs that interfere with sleep, school or work.
- DM Dosage: See Dosage table. Give every 6 to 8 hours for severe coughs that interfere with sleep, school or work.
- Expose to warm mist (e.g., foggy bathroom).
- Give warm fluids to drink (e.g., warm water or apple juice) if over 3 months of age.
- Amount: If under 1 year of age, give warm fluids in a dosage of 1-3 teaspoons (5-15 ml) four times per day when coughing. If over 1 year of age, use unlimited amounts as needed.
- Reason: both relax the airway and loosen up the phlegm
Fever Medicine: For fever above 102° F (39° C), give acetaminophen (e.g., Tylenol) or ibuprofen.
Observation During Sleep: Sleep in the same room with your child for a few nights. (Reason: can suddenly develop stridor at night)
Avoid Tobacco Smoke: Active or passive smoking makes coughs much worse.
Contagiousness: Your child can return to day care or school after the fever is gone and your child feels well enough to participate in normal activities. For practical purposes, the spread of croup and colds cannot be prevented.
Expected Course: Croup usually lasts 5 to 6 days and becomes worse at night.
Call Your Doctor If:
- Stridor (harsh raspy sound) occurs
- Croupy cough lasts over 14 days
- Your child becomes worse
Disclaimer: This information is not intended be a substitute for professional medical advice. It is provided for educational purposes only. You assume full responsibility for how you choose to use this information.
Author and Senior Reviewer: Barton D. Schmitt, M.D.
Last Reviewed: 9/15/2011
Last Revised: 8/1/2011
Content Set: Pediatric HouseCalls Symptom Checker
Copyright 1994-2012 Barton D. Schmitt, M.D.