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What is croup?

Diana Meeks
Diana Meeks on behalf of Sigma Nursing
Family Practitioner

Croup is a swelling in the throat that is characterized by a loud cough. Caused by inflammation around the vocal cords (larynx) that sometimes extends to the windpipe (trachea), the cough is often described as sounding like the bark of a seal. Like the common cold, croup is usually caused by a virus. Most common in young children, croup normally lasts less than a week. In most cases, home treatment with over-the-counter pain relievers and steam, such as from a vaporizer, can ease the symptoms of croup during the recovery period. Less commonly, more severe symptoms, such as having trouble breathing, may require immediate medical care.

Croup is an illness caused by a virus in which one part of the air passage to the lungs becomes swollen and narrow. Because of the swelling, when your child breathes in he makes a hoarse, raspy sound. Also, your child may have a strange cough that sounds like a barking seal.

Croup may last many days, but the worst part is usually over in two to three days. It is usually worse at night. Many children will have a low fever (less than 100.3°F), but sometimes it will be higher. Because a virus causes croup, there is no special medicine to cure it.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.