As a mother of three, I’ve unfortunately dealt with my fair share of coughs, infections, rashes, itches, and bumps amongst my children.  I know that I wished I had a “quick gude” to help me through those tough times.

To be as helpful as possible to you and my nanny agency in NYC clients, I’ve compiled exactly that – a “quick guide” to Croup and I’ve also included links to a few eBook downloads that you might find useful as you seek to solve your baby’s infections, rashes, deal with immunizations, and handle other challenges you might be facing with your little one.

So let’s start out with the basics:

What is croup?

  • Viral infection that causes swelling of the voice box, windpipe and the vocal cords
  • The cough that results is due to the swelling in these airway passages
  • Usually caused by the parainfluenza virus but can also be caused by several other viruses
  • Can also be caused by allergies, irritants in the air or rarely bacteria
  • Not usually severe
  • Common between late fall and early winter

What ages of children are usually affected by croup?

  • Most common in children between 6 months and 3 years
  • Does not usually occur in children over the age of 6 years old
  • Children may get croup more than one time in their life
  • Typically affects boys more than girls

Is croup contagious and how is it spread?

  • Very contagious if caused by a virus
  • Not contagious if caused by allergies or irritants
  • Spread through the air after an infected person has coughed or sneezed
  • Can also spread through contact with the infected mucus that has been expelled onto the hand, surfaces, toys, and other objects. Then the child accidentally comes into contact with mucus and then touches his/her mouth or nose.
  • Children with croup are most contagious the first few days
  • Not all children exposed to croup with develop the “barking cough.” Some will only have a sore throat and a normal cough.

How can croup be prevented?

  • There is no way to prevent croup.
  • Simple hygiene can help to prevent infection with the viruses that can lead to croup
  • Practice good hand washing habits
  • Keep the child away from other people that have an upper respiratory infection
  • Do not allow a sick person to touch the child or come into close contact with the child
  • Disinfect toys, surfaces and other objects frequently
  • Throw used tissues away immediately
  • Make sure the child is up-to-date on his/her immunization.

What are the croup symptoms?

  • Typically after being exposed to the virus, it will be 2 – 3 days before symptoms begin
  • Usually begins with several days of cold symptoms including mild fever, some hoarseness and a sore throat.
  • Then the sound of the child’s cough changes to a very hoarse, “bark-like” deep cough that gets worse at night.
  • The cough can also come on suddenly with no warning signs or cold symptoms in the middle of the night.
  • May develop a harsh, raspy, high pitched gasping noise when inhaling (also called “stridor”)

What is the croup treatment?

  • Since croup is caused by a virus, antibiotics will not be effective in treating
  • The doctor may prescribe medicine to help with the swelling in the airways if the croup is severe
  • Comfort the child and keep him/her calm by singing, reading a story or just holding the child
  • Sleep in the child’s room or with a child monitor so that it is evident when to provide the treatments below
  • Moist air or cool air seems to be very helpful for the swelling so try:
    • Using a humidifier in the child’s room to help moisten the air in the room
    • Sitting in the bathroom with the child while hot water is running in the shower for about 15 minutes with the door closed to create a humid environment.
    • Taking the child out into the cold night air for about 10 – 20 minutes after bundling up
    • Taking the child for a slow car ride for about 10 -20 minutes with the windows open when the night is cool
    • If the nose is clogged from the mucus, try using saline nose drops. (Mix ¼ teaspoon of salt with 1 cup of water and gently squeeze into the child’s nose.  Then clean the nose with a bulb syringe.)
    • These suggestions will help the child feel better for awhile, but another coughing attack will occur and the treatments will need to be repeated.
  • Make sure the child is getting enough fluids as to not become dehydrated (try popsicles)
  • Give acetaminophen or ibuprofen for the fever
  • Do not give cough medicine as the child needs to be able to cough up the mucus

How long does croup last?

  • After exposure, it will be 2 – 3 days before symptoms begin
  • Most often is worst the first 2 – 3 nights
  • Usually goes away within 5 – 7 days
  • There can also be lingering cold symptoms (including a normal cough) for up to 2 weeks after the “barking” cough goes away

Call the doctor if:

  • The first sign of croup so the doctor can make a correct diagnosis and treatment plan
  • After trying the suggestions above for treatment, the child seems to be getting worse
  • Difficulty breathing when resting or sleeping which makes it very hard for the child to sleep
  • Stridor (see definition above) occurs when the child is calm as it should lessen or go away when the child is resting
  • Difficulty breathing or the breathing becomes labored in any way
  • Child cannot cry because of not being able to draw a breath
  • Will not lay down and only wants to remain in an upright position
  • Excessive drooling

Here is the e-Book about pediatric medications I put together that might help you. It covers all sorts of stuff that you can use to help your child with her symptoms.

Pediatric Medication

You might also find these other three eBooks helpful!

Baby Immunization

Free Guide

Help Colicky Baby

Also, here are some additional videos I produced with my friends at Howcast that might be helpful to you as you tackle other related challenges:

How to Handle a Baby’s Cough

How to Help a Crying Baby

How to Help a Gassy Baby

Diaper Bag Must-Haves