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What to Do About Croup

Medically reviewed by: Rachel S. Schare, MD

Croup is a viral infection in the upper airway, around the vocal cords and windpipe. Swelling in this area may cause a barking cough. Croup, most often seen in the late summer and fall, usually affects young children.

What Are the Signs & Symptoms of Croup?

  • a barking cough
  • a high-pitched sound when breathing in (known as stridor)
  • breathing harder than usual
  • stuffy or runny nose
  • fever

What Can I Do About Croup?

  • Run a hot shower to create a steam-filled bathroom where you can sit with your child for 20 minutes.
  • Take your child outside during cooler months for a few minutes. This may help breathing.
  • Use a cool-mist humidifier. Having your child breathe in the moist air will sometimes ease symptoms.

Get Medical Care If Your Child:

  • has trouble breathing (breathing too fast or skin between the ribs is pulling in)
  • has a pale or bluish color around the mouth
  • drools or has trouble swallowing
  • becomes tired easily

What Can Help Prevent Croup?

Washing hands well and often and avoiding contact with people who have respiratory infections are the best protection against the spread of viruses that cause croup.

Medically reviewed by: Rachel S. Schare, MD
Date reviewed: February 2021