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Croup
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Croup

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CHILDREN'S HEALTH

Ear/Nose/Throat

CHILDREN'S HEALTH

Infants

Croup is an infection of the larynx (voicebox), trachea (windpipe), and bronchial tubes (airways). It often worsens at night and improves in the morning. Croup usually lasts about 7 days. Your child may have a simple cold for several days and then one night unexpectedly develop a loud, barking cough. The swelling and narrowing of the airway may make breathing difficult. One of the cold viruses is typically the cause. These viruses spread by respiratory secretions or droplets in the air.

The condition primarily affects children younger than 5 years old because their small airways are more susceptible to narrowing when swollen. Adults may simply have a cold with laryngitis, but children may develop croup.

Croup comes on strongest during the nighttime and may last from 5 to 7 nights. Croup usually occurs in the fall or winter. Recurring croup is called spasmodic croup.

Signs and symptoms

Signs and symptoms of croup may include:

  • Loud, harsh, barking cough, which can happen in intermittent outbursts

  • Mild to moderate difficulty with breathing, especially noisy when inhaling

  • Fever

  • Hoarse voice

A characteristic sign of croup is a cough resembling the barking of a seal. Your child may have a cough for several nights before the illness subsides.

Croup is usually preceded by signs and symptoms similar to those of a cold, such as a runny or stuffy nose. If a young child with a cold becomes hoarse, croup may develop that night.

Usually the breathing difficulty is only mild to moderate. If breathing difficulty is severe, you may need to be ready for middle-of-the-night emergency care.

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