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Croup: Brief Version


What is a croupy cough?

A croupy cough is when your child has a tight, "barking" cough and usually a hoarse voice.

What is stridor?

Stridor is when your child breathes in, you hear a harsh, raspy sound. This happens with severe croup.

What causes croup?

Croup is a viral infection of the vocal cords. Stridor occurs as the opening between the cords becomes more narrow.

How can I take care of my child?

First Aid for Attacks of Stridor With Croup

  • Inhale warm mist. Warm, moist air seems to work best to relax the vocal cords and break the stridor. Take your child into a foggy bathroom. Have a hot shower running with the bathroom door closed. If your child turns blue, passes out, or stops breathing, call 911.
  • Cold air. If it is cold outside, take your child outdoors. Holding your child in front of an open refrigerator may help too.

Home Care for a Croupy Cough Without Stridor

  • Humidifier. Dry air usually makes coughs worse. Keep your child's bedroom humid. (Use a humidifier if the air is dry.)
  • Warm fluids for coughing spasms. Warm drinks (such as warm apple juice or warm lemonade) may relax the vocal cords and loosen up sticky mucus. You can give warm fluids to children over 4 months old. Give lots of fluids to prevent dehydration.
  • Cough medicines. Medicines are much less helpful than mist or warm fluids. If your child is over 1 year of age, give 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of honey to thin secretions.

Call your child's doctor right away if:

  • Breathing becomes difficult (when your child is not coughing).
  • Your child starts drooling or having a lot of trouble swallowing.
  • The warm mist fails to clear up the stridor in 20 minutes.
  • Your child starts acting very sick.

Call your child's doctor during office hours if:

  • A fever lasts more than 3 days.
  • Croup lasts more than 10 days.
  • You have other questions or concerns.

Written by B.D. Schmitt, MD, author of "Your Child's Health," Bantam Books.
Published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2010-06-03
Last reviewed: 2010-06-02

This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a health care professional.

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