How to Treat Croup

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Croup is a respiratory infection that causes the airways leading to the lungs to become swollen and inflamed. It's characterized by a harsh cough that resembles a seal barking; a raspy sound when inhaling; and a fever. Most affected are children between the ages of 6 months and 3 years.

Things You'll Need

  • Dehumidifiers
  • Hold and comfort the child. Agitation and fear can worsen symptoms.

  • Use a cool mist humidifier or vaporizer. The mist will help relieve airway swelling and loosen secretions.

  • Turn on the shower to steam up the room, and then take the child inside. Sit on the toilet seat or on a chair. Keep the child in the steamy room for 15 minutes. Read a book aloud to help keep him or her quiet.

  • Bundle the child up and take him or her outside into the cool night air (most croup occurs at night). Croup usually responds quickly to moist air.

  • Make your own croup tent. Place the vaporizer under the child's bed. Drape a blanket over a crib (use an umbrella if your child is old enough for a bed). This will trap the steam.

  • Avoid leaving your child alone under the croup tent. You need to stay awake to monitor symptoms.

  • Encourage the child to drink liquids, especially clear ones. This helps to thin mucus.

  • Avoid milk, as it makes secretions thicker.

  • Continue to assess symptoms. If croup doesn't improve after trying several methods of self-care (steam, night air, croup tent) for at least 15 minutes each or seems to be worsening, you may need to go to the emergency room.

Tips & Warnings

  • Most cases of croup respond to self-care, and rarely is medical intervention necessary. Croup can also be caused by an allergy or can be an early sign of asthma.
  • Croup is often confused with croup epiglottitis, which is caused by a bacterial infection and can be life-threatening.
  • If your child is gasping for air, drooling and can't swallow, or has a bluish tinge to skin, seek emergency care immediately.
  • If you have any questions or concerns, contact a physician or other health care professional before engaging in any activity related to health and diet. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice or treatment.
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