Croup, a common childhood ailment, is acute and severe inflammation and obstruction of the upper respiratory tract, occurring most frequently from 3 months to 3 years of age. It is more common in male infants and children, usually occurring in winter.
The condition may be caused by parainfluenza virus, adenoviruses, respiratory syncytial viruses, and influenza and measles viruses. Croup generally follows an upper respiratory tract infection.
Signs and Symptoms
Common symptoms include hoarseness; fever; a distinctive harsh, brassy, barklike cough; respiratory distress; and persistent stridor during inspiration. Stridor is a harsh, high-pitched sound during respiration due to obstruction of the air passages. The infant or child may be anxious and frightened by the respiratory distress. The symptoms may last a few hours or persist for a day or two.
The clinical picture is very characteristic, so a diagnosis is made fairly quickly. Cultures of the causative organism are performed. Neck x-ray and laryngoscopy may also be performed.
Children are treated symptomatically at home in most cases with bed rest, liquids, and antipyretics. Cool humidification of the air is tried. Often children are more comfortable when in a sitting position; holding them or placing them in an infant seat may ease their breathing. If dehydration is suspected, hospitalization may be necessary and antibiotic therapy and oxygen therapy may be started.
No significant complementary therapy is indicated.
Keep a child as quiet as possible. Control fever with sponge baths and antipyretics. Waterbased fruit juices and Popsicles can help soothe the throat. Use of a cool humidifier or vaporizer can be helpful.
The prognosis for croup is good with treatment.
Prevention includes prompt treatment of any respiratory tract infections.