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Croup, which is most common in young children, is an infection of the upper airway that obstructs breathing and produces a barking cough. It’s typically caused by a virus.

Inflammation around the vocal cords, windpipe and bronchial tubes is what produces the respiratory symptoms. When a cough forces air through this narrowed passage, the swollen vocal cords produce a noise similar to that of a seal barking. Likewise, taking a breath may produce a high-pitched whistling sound (stridor). Other signs may include fever and a hoarse voice.
Most cases of croup are mild and improve within a couple of days. In a small percentage of cases, the airway swells enough to interfere with breathing.


  • Keep your child calm. Because crying and agitation worsen airway obstruction, try to comfort your child. Hold your child, sing lullabies or read quiet stories. Offer a favorite blanket or toy.
  • Moisten the air. Humid air may help a child’s breathing. You can use a humidifier or sit with your child in a bathroom filled with steam generated by running hot water from the shower.
  • Keep your child upright. Sitting upright makes breathing easier. Hold your child on your lap, or place your child in a favorite chair.
  • Offer fluids. For babies, water, breast milk or formula is fine. For older children, soup or frozen fruit pops may be soothing.
  • Encourage rest. Sleep helps your child fight the infection.
  • Use an over-the-counter pain reliever. If your child has a fever, acetaminophen (Tylenol, others) may help.

Your child’s cough may improve during the day, but don’t be surprised if it returns at night. You may want to sleep near your child or even in the same room so that you can take quick action if your child’s symptoms should become severe.

         Excerpt From: The Mayo Clinic. “Mayo Clinic A to Z Health Guide”. 

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