What Is Croup? - Definition, Symptoms & Treatment

Instructor: Lynee Carter
From this lesson, you will learn about a respiratory condition called croup that mainly occurs in children. Eventually, you will know the distinct characteristics of croup and how it is treated based on its severity.

What is Croup?

Croup is a contagious condition that occurs mainly in young children. It rarely occurs in children over the age of 6 years old. The most common causes are from viral infections; however, it also can come from bacterial infections, allergies, or anything that irritates the upper airways of the respiratory system.

During croup, the tissues in the voice box (larynx) and windpipe (trachea), become inflamed, which leads to swelling. The result is an obstructed airway that contributes to the symptoms children may experience.


What are the Symptoms of Croup?

The symptoms of croup stand out differently when compared to other respiratory conditions. Looking at the letters that spell out C-R-O-U-P will help you remember these symptoms:

C for cough. Do you know what seals sound like when they bark? This distinct sound is what children with croup sound like when they cough. It is more likely to be heard at night.

R for restlessness. Think about how some children behave when they are feeling sick. Children with croup can have a hard time staying still, especially when they are anxious and agitated from difficulty breathing. They may also cry, which only makes the overall symptoms worst. Like the cough, these behaviors usually occurs at night.

O for out of breath. When the tissues in the upper respiratory system swell, it restricts airflow and can cause trouble breathing. Severe symptoms of respiratory distress include breathing fast, chest retractions, drooling, difficulty swallowing and color change around the mouth.

U for unusual sounds. You may hear children produce high-pitched noises when they breathe in -- this is called stridor. They can also have a hoarse voice when talking. These symptoms occur in severe cases of croup, due to increased swelling of the tissues in the larynx and trachea.

P for pain and pyretic. When coughing for a long period of time, the chest muscles can hurt from being overworked. There can also be complaints about sore throat from the irritation and swelling in the airways. Pyretic is a medical term that is used to relate to fever. Sometimes children with croup can have an elevated temperature that ranges from 100-103 degrees Fahrenheit.

croup cough

How is Croup Treated?

Treatment for croup is mainly based on relieving the child of the symptoms they are experiencing. In mild cases, certain things can be done at home that will help them feel better:

  • Breathing in air from an opened window, steamy shower, or humidifier
  • Promoting a relaxing environment that is calm, comfortable, and quiet
  • Administering over-the-counter medications that reduce cough, fever, and pain

In more severe cases of respiratory distress, the children may need medical attention to help them breath better, reduce airway swelling, and fight respiratory infections. This medical attention can include:

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