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The Facts about Croup

By HERWriter
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Croup, characterized by a seal-sounding cough, is a condition caused by an acute viral infection in the larynx, trachea, and bronchi (hence its alternative name: laryngotracheobronchitis).

Viruses responsible for the infection include: parainfluenza (the most common factor), adenovirus, measles and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). It causes the tissues in the upper airway to swell thus constricting the airway and causing a cough.

Croup typically affects children between the ages of 6 months and 5 years, although older children can get it, too. It affects boys more than girls and usually appears in the winter months. The barking cough is often preceded by mild cold symptoms (runny nose, mild fever, sore throat). Parents may also hear a slight crowing sound, referred to as "stridor," when a child inhales. This is a sign that the airway has become abnormally narrowed, and your child should be seen by a doctor.

Croup is usually worse at night and can last for 5 or 6 nights, with the first nights being the most severe. If symptoms last longer than a week or recur frequently, you should speak with your family physician.

Croup is contagious and can be spread through airborne droplets from sneezing or coughing, or from contaminated hands touching common surfaces (counter tops, door knobs, telephones, etc.).

In most cases, children with croup can be treated and managed at home with inhaling moist air (mist vaporizer or humidifier, or standing in steamed-up bathroom) and drinking lots of fluids. The child should be sat up during sleep, if symptoms worsen when lying down. Blocked nasal passages can be cleared using saltwater nose drops administered every few hours, followed by suctioning out of the fluid with a nasal aspirator or ear bulb syringe.

Children are most contagious within the first few days of onset of symptoms. They can return to school or day care once the fever has cleared. A productive cough may last another two weeks or so, but should not be a cause for keeping them at home.

Sources: http://kidshealth.org, www.mayoclinic.com, www.nlm.nih.gov, www.medicinenet.com, www.emedicinehealth.com

Add a Comment2 Comments

EmpowHER Guest

I think you may confuse lay people to say that measles is a causitive agent for croup. I talked to our County Infectious DIsease Nurse and we felt that a person with a measles infection could have inflammation in the area that would give them a 'croupy' cough, due to generalized swelling. Is this not so? Thanks, K. Tangney-Rogers, RN

March 17, 2010 - 8:46am
HERWriter (reply to Anonymous)

Yes, from what I read that is true. It should be clarified that just because something has the potential to cause croup, doesn't mean it will do so in all circumstances in all patients. I said it is "a" causative agent not "the" causative agent. From what I was able to gather from the information I read, the presence of measles was associated with some cases of croup. Obviously not everyone who has measles will experience croup, but the possibility is still there for some to develop croup in the right set of circumstances.

March 17, 2010 - 9:15am
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.


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