Croup Cough: Treatment, Causes and Symptoms (Child)

Find out what causes croup cough in babies and toddlers, recognise the symptoms and learn croup virus treatment for the voice box and windpipe.

What Causes Croup Cough in Babies and Children?

Croup is a viral infection of the voice box (larynx) and windpipe (trachea). Croup cough symptoms in babies and children include swelling of the vocal cords, causing hoarseness. Children with croup cough may also have a tight, low-pitched "barking" cough.

Stridor develops as the opening between the vocal cords becomes narrower. This is a high-pitched, squeaking sound heard when your child breathes in and maybe more obvious with crying or coughing. If the disease becomes worse, stridor may be heard even when your child is asleep or relaxed.

Expected Course

Croup usually lasts for three to seven days, and the symptoms are worse in young children under three years of age. 

Croup Virus Treatment for Toddlers and Children

As with all viral infections, ensure lots of fluids and rest for your child. Most cases of croup virus are mild and do not require hospitalisation.

  • Medications: Your doctor may prescribe a steroid for your child’s croup treatment to reduce the swelling of the windpipe and vocal cords. In some severe cases, an inhalation treatment with adrenaline and oxygen may also be given.
  • Warm, moist air: You can run a hot shower to create a steam-filled bathroom where you can sit with your child for five to 10 minutes. This may help your child breathe easier and help to soothe coughing bouts.
  • Smoke exposure: Avoid having anyone smoke near your child, as this may make your child's symptoms worse.
  • Close observation: You may consider sleeping in the same room as your child when he is ill so that you can monitor him more closely, particularly for croup in babies under six months.
  • Consult your doctor for prescription croup treatment if:
    • your child's breathing is fast or difficult
    • your child's stridor recurs or is persistent
    • your child is lethargic
    • there is poor feeding, and there are signs of dehydration (dry lips/mouth, reduced tears, sunken eyes, reduced urine, reduced activity)
    • your child appears pale or blue
    • your child has an underlying medical problem (e.g., prematurity, heart or lung disease, muscle weakness etc.)
    • the symptoms persist for more than a week

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