How to Care for a Child With Croup

Three Methods:Treating Croup at HomeSeeing Your DoctorRecognizing the Symptoms of Croup

Croup is usually found in young children. The characteristic symptom of croup is a cough that is often described as a seal bark caused by inflammation in the throat constricting the airway. Most parents can treat croup at home, but seek medical treatment immediately if your child starts to struggle to breath.

Method 1
Treating Croup at Home

  1. Image titled Care for a Child With Croup Step 1
    Keep your child calm. It can be frustrating or even frightening when your airway is slightly obstructed by swelling, and children may become very upset. It’s important that you try to keep them calm, as getting too agitated can make breathing problems worse.[1]
    • Speak in a soothing voice and make sure your child does not see you get visibly upset about their breathing.
    • If your child’s breathing becomes too labored, seek immediate medical attention.
  2. Image titled Care for a Child With Croup Step 2
    Help your child get plenty of rest. Like most illnesses, getting plenty of rest is an important part of recovering from croup. Because croup is caused by a viral infection, antibiotics cannot help with recovery.[2]
    • Croup and your child’s body fighting the illness will likely make them very tired. However, seek immediate medical attention if you child is difficult to arouse.
    • Make sure your child stays in bed as much as possible. Let them sleep as long as they need.
  3. Image titled Care for a Child With Croup Step 3
    Keep your child hydrated. Hydration is extremely important not only to your child’s ability to fight croup, but to your child’s health in general. Although congestion and swelling in the throat may make it difficult or painful to swallow fluids, encourage your child to drink often. Breast milk is find for infants, but older children may prefer things like popsicles as they can ease some inflammation. [3]
    • If your child becomes dehydrated, he or she may have to go to the hospital to receive IV fluids.
    • Dehydration can make the symptoms of croup like the cough and sore throat worse.
  4. Image titled Care for a Child With Croup Step 4
    Put your child in the bathroom with the shower running. Use hot water to steam up the bathroom. Warm, moist air can relax the vocal chords and provide your child with some relief from the symptoms of croup. The barking cough caused by croup is created by swelling of the vocal chords, so soothing them may help your child breath.[4]
    • Using a humidifier in your child’s room can also provide some relief while they are sleeping.
    • If your child’s breathing becomes strained or difficult, seek medical attention immediately.
    • Cold air can also also help your child breathe. You can open a window if it's cold out, or open the freezer door, and let the child breathe in the cold air for a few minutes.
  5. Image titled Care for a Child With Croup Step 5
    Use Tylenol to reduce fever or pain. Many cold medicines are not suitable for young children, but you can treat fever with medications like acetaminophen. Acetaminophen is common in Tylenol as well as other medications.[5]
    • Make sure to buy medicine meant for your child’s age. Infant acetaminophen dosages are often different than those designed for older children which can lead to overdose risks.
    • There are two different strengths of acetaminophen sold over the counter, so it’s important to look for the right strength for your child based on age and weight requirements you can find on the package.
    • Alternatively, ibuprofen can be given to children over 6 months old.
  6. Image titled Care for a Child With Croup Step 6
    Keep your child out of school until their fever breaks. Croup can be caused by a number of different viruses, which can make it difficult to establish a timeline for recovery, but your child’s fever should usually break after about three days. Once the fever breaks, your child will no longer be contagious.[6]
    • If your child continues to have a fever after three days, you should see a doctor.
    • Croup can be extremely contagious, so prevent your child from interacting with other children until their fever breaks.
  7. Image titled Care for a Child With Croup Step 7
    Wash your hands regularly. Croup is a viral infection that can be transmitted in the same ways as the common cold or the flu. Washing your hands regularly can help prevent you and your child from transferring croup virus from your hands to your mouth or eyes.[7]
    • Wash your hands after coming into any contact with the bodily fluids of others, or after touching something a sick person has come into contact with.
    • Make sure you know how to wash your hands properly and teach your children the same.

Method 2
Seeing Your Doctor

  1. Image titled Care for a Child With Croup Step 8
    Have your doctor prescribe a steroid. If your child’s croup does not pass on its own or is more severe, your doctor may choose to prescribe a steroid like Dexamethasone. These steroids will reduce inflammation and make breathing easier.[8]
    • Dexamethasone is commonly prescribed because of its long lasting effect (usually around 72 hours) but it can take up to six hours to produce relief.
  2. 2
    Ask a doctor to administer epinephrine. Epinephrine is used for croup when the child is having trouble breathing, or "stridor," at rest. It is given in a breathing machine and is called "vaponephrine." It helps relax the muscles in the airway, which helps the child breathe. It is only given in a doctor's office, emergency room, or hospital. It works quickly, but may not last as long as a steroid. Therefore, a steroid is given along with this.
  3. Image titled Care for a Child With Croup Step 9
    Look for signs of dehydration. Your child may require medical attention to help them recover from croup, but other related issues could also require medical assistance. Dehydration is a serious risk with croup, as it can make swallowing uncomfortable. Severe dehydration can limit your child’s ability to recover and create other health issues. Keep a look out for signs that your child is becoming dehydrated. If your child exhibits any of the following symptoms, seek medical attention:[9]
    • If your child has been going to the bathroom less frequently than usual, that is often a sign of dehydration. The color of your child’s urine will grow darker the more dehydrated they are. Most babies should urinate at least 6 times a day, and older children should urinate at least 3 times a day.
    • Dehydration can cause constipation, which can lead to abdominal cramping.
    • If the soft spot (or fontanel) on an infant’s head appears sunken, your infant may be severely dehydrated.
    • Rapid breathing and heartbeat are signs that your child is severely dehydrated.
    • Other symptoms include no tears while crying and a dry mouth.
  4. Image titled Care for a Child With Croup Step 10
    Recognize symptoms that indicate an emergency. It is uncommon for a child to require hospitalization for croup, but it’s important that you are aware of the symptoms that may indicate that your child needs immediate medical care. Seek medical treatment if your child displays any of the following symptoms:[10]
    • Breathing becomes extremely labored or difficult
    • The child begins to drool or has difficulty swallowing, or the child has noisy breathing (called stridor) even when resting
    • Skin around the nose or mouth turns blueish or grey
    • Fever reaches 104 degrees Fahrenheit
    • The child is difficult to arouse or is very irritable.
  5. Image titled Care for a Child With Croup Step 11
    Have a breathing tube inserted. In extreme cases, it is sometimes necessary to insert a breathing tube in your child’s windpipe to help ensure they are able to breath until they begin to recover. This will require hospitalizing your child.[11]
    • This is usually used as a last resort and is fairly uncommon.
    • Breathing tubes are often used in conjunction with IV fluids to keep your child well hydrated.

Method 3
Recognizing the Symptoms of Croup

  1. Image titled Care for a Child With Croup Step 12
    Listen for high-pitched, barky coughing. The most prominent symptom of croup is the high pitched, barking like sound children make when coughing. The cough often starts suddenly at night and is usually worse at night. Croup causes vocal chords to swell, which narrows the airway in a child’s throat and creates a high pitched sound when air passes through them.[12] Croup also causes a hoarse voice for some children.
    • While croup is possible in adults, it is less likely as adult airways are larger and don’t often create a whistling sound.
    • Inhaling deeply can also cause the throat to whistle in children with croup. It may sound like wheezing, and is called stridor.
  2. Image titled Care for a Child With Croup Step 13
    Look for sinus congestion. Because croup often displays symptoms similar to that of the common cold, it can be easy to mistake them for one another. Croup often causes severe sinus congestion which can make breathing through the nose very difficult.[13]
    • Sinus congestion can also lead to post-nasal drip, which may cause nausea.
    • Sneezing, runny nose, and a sore throat are all also tied to congestion caused by croup.
  3. Image titled Care for a Child With Croup Step 14
    Check for fever. Croup will often cause the body’s temperature to increase slightly. Fever may not be among the first symptoms to present themselves and may take a few days to appear. If a child presents a fever, make sure to check it periodically to make sure it doesn’t get too high.[14]
    • If your child’s fever reaches 104 degrees Fahrenheit, seek immediate medical treatment.
    • Remember that your child must hydrate often to help their body regulate temperature.

Article Info

Categories: Childhood Health