How to Diagnose Croup

Two Methods:Recognize the SymptomsSee a Doctor for Diagnosis

Laryngotracheitis, known as croup, is an infection that causes inflammation, swelling and a narrowing of the larynx and trachea. Croup primarily affects children between the ages of 3 months and 6 years, with most cases occurring before the age of 3 years. The small size of a young child's windpipe causes even slight swelling to impede the air flow necessary for breathing. The symptoms of croup are a key factor in diagnosing the condition.

Method 1
Recognize the Symptoms

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    Watch your child for a dry, harsh, barking cough. Coughing is a defensive reflex used by the body to try to clear a blocked airway. The cough may become more severe at night when the child is lying down.
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    Listen for difficult, rapid or noisy breathing. The child may try to compensate for breathing trouble by keeping her mouth open, taking breaths more frequently or breathing primarily through her nose.
    • As the condition progresses, you may sometimes hear a wheezing, whistling or crowing sound when the child inhales.
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    Pay attention to complaints of chest pain. Coughing is a very physical activity that taxes muscles in the chest and can cause muscle-related chest pains.
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    Ask your child if his throat hurts or watch him for signs of throat pain if he is too young to communicate verbally. If his throat is hurting him you may see:
    • He grimaces or makes a funny face when swallowing or frequently touches the front of his neck.
    • Loss of interest in food due to the pain associated with swallowing.
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    Assess your child's voice or cry for changes in the sound. Hoarseness or loss of voice may develop in time if the condition is left untreated.

Method 2
See a Doctor for Diagnosis

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    Call your doctor for guidance if the symptoms of croup are mild.
    • Your doctor may want to see the child for diagnosis or may advise you of methods for home treatment based on your description of the symptoms.
    • There are several different types of croup, but the most common types only make children moderately sick and will pass on their own in a few days of home care.
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    Make an appointment to see the doctor if symptoms worsen or do not improve within 3 to 5 days.
    • The doctor will look inside the child's throat and may take a throat culture.
    • Depending on the cause and severity of the croup, prescription medication may be needed to clear the infection.
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    Go directly to the emergency room if your child is experiencing increasing or persistent difficulty breathing, a bluish discoloration of the skin, or symptoms of dehydration.
    • Epiglottitis is a rare but very serious form of croup which can sometimes be fatal. The condition causes inflammation and swelling of the epiglottis, the cartilage at the back of the tongue that closes off the windpipe when the child swallows. A swollen epiglottis can quickly cause death by suffocation if not treated promptly.
    • Occasionally, severe cases of croup can lead to a condition known as bacterial tracheitis, a bacterial infection in the airway. Hospitalization and intravenous antibiotics are necessary to prevent the epiglottis from becoming infected.


  • Boys are more commonly affected by croup than are girls.
  • Approximately 5 percent of all children are prone to croup and may suffer from recurrent attacks. In most cases, if symptoms are caught early the condition will clear in a few days with proper care at home.
  • Most cases of croup occur in late fall and winter, but can occur any time of year.

Article Info

Categories: Childhood Health