What you need to know about Croup

By Carolina Boyd

Croup is one of the most common respiratory illnesses to send young children to the hospital. Also known as laryngotracheitis, this upper airway infection causes swelling around the voice box and windpipe, which can block a child’s ability to breathe. Children between 3 months and 5 years of age are most at risk for developing croup because their airways are smaller.

As children get older, their windpipes become larger and the swelling that comes from croup is less likely to get in the way of breathing. That is also the main reason why croup does not affect adults the same way as children. While croup can happen any time of the year, it’s most common in the fall and early winter months.

Symptoms of croup include:

  • Loud barking cough that sounds like a seal
  • Fever
  • Hoarseness
  • Labored or noisy breathing
  • Anxiety
  • Agitation

There are two types of Croup: viral and spasmodic. Both are most often caused by a viral infection and usually start as a cold. However, spasmodic croup may also be caused by an allergy or stomach reflux, which happens when content from the stomach pushes up into the esophagus.

Croup is contagious and your child may catch the virus through infected respiratory droplets coughed or sneezed into the air. Those droplets can survive on toys or other surfaces, which can also result in an infection if a child touches those surfaces. Children with croup are considered contagious for about three days after the illness starts or until the fever is gone.

The majority of kids with croup can be treated at home with a doctor’s visit if symptoms are mild. However, if a child is struggling to breathe, has a pale or bluish color around the mouth or you can see your child’s skin pull around the ribs while gasping for air, take him or her to an emergency room immediately for care.

While croup is not 100% preventable, you can reduce your child’s chances of developing it by washing his or her hands often and keeping those hands away from their face. If your child has croup, limit his or her interactions with others until they are recovered.

If you have any concerns about your child’s health this time of year, reach out to his or her Legacy doctor. Call 832-548-5000 to schedule an appointment.