by EBSCO Medical Review Board


Croup is swelling in the voice box and wind pipe. The swelling can make it hard to breathe. It can also cause a barking cough.

Upper Respiratory System in a Child
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Croup is caused by viral infections such as:

Risk Factors

Croup is most common in kids between 6 months and 3 years of age. Kids this age have a smaller airway. Croup is also more common in the fall and early winter months.

Other things that may raise the risk are:


The first symptoms may be like a common cold. They often happen at night. A child may have:

  • Cough spasms or hoarseness
  • A cough that sounds like a barking seal
  • Fever
  • Problems breathing
  • A harsh, high-pitched sound when your child breathes in, especially when crying or upset
  • Drooling and problems swallowing
  • Decreased alertness
  • Bluish color of nails, lips, or around the mouth


You will be asked about your child's symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done. This is often enough to make the diagnosis.


The goal of treatment is to help the child breathe until the infection is gone. The infection often goes away in a week. Things like fluids and warm, moist air can help with breathing.

Children with severe symptoms may need a breathing tube put in the throat to help open the airway. This is rare.


Medicine may be needed to help the symptoms. The doctor may advise:

  • Over the counter medicine to lower fever and ease discomfort
  • Steroids to reduce swelling in the airways
  • Epinephrine to ease swelling until steroids start to work
  • Oxygen therapy for severe breathing problems


The risk of croup can be lowered by washing hands often and making sure a child's vaccines are up to date.


Healthy Children—American Academy of Pediatrics 

Kids Health—Nemours Foundation 


About Kids Health—The Hospital for Sick Children 

Health Canada 


Croup and your young child. Healthy Children—American Academy of Pediatrics website. Available at: Accessed April 18, 2022.

Croup. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Accessed April 18, 2022.

Croup. Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians. website. Available at: Accessed April 18, 2022.

Smith D.K., McDermott A.J., et al. Croup: diagnosis and management. Am Fam Physician, 2018; 97 (9): 575-580.

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