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Croup facts

  • Croup is an infection of the larynx, trachea, and the bronchial tubes usually caused by viruses. Less often croup is caused by bacteria.
  • Croup is contagious, especially during the first few days of illness.
  • A cough that sounds like a barking seal and a harsh raspy "Darth Vader" sound during inhalation are symptoms of croup.
  • Treatment of croup can include cool moist air, saltwater nose drops, pain and fever medication, fluids, and very rarely antibiotics. Over-the-counter decongestants, cough and cold medications, and aspirin should not be given.
  • The major concern in croup is progressive breathing difficulty as the air passages narrow.
  • Close monitoring of the breathing of a child with croup is important, especially at night.

What is croup? What causes croup?

Croup is an infectious pediatric illness of the respiratory system that involves the vocal cords (larynx), the windpipe (trachea), and the upper airways of the lungs (bronchial tubes). The majority of a child's symptoms reflect involvement of the larynx. Croup is usually a viral infection and may be caused by many different viruses, including those responsible for the common cold and influenza. Rarely, it is caused by a bacterial infection. Croup is more common in children between 6 months and 3 years of age and rarely occurs in children over 6 years of age. It is more commonly seen from late fall through the early winter months. It has a slightly higher frequency in boys than in girls. Bacterial croup is an infection of the same structures that are affected during a viral process. Treatment varies depending on whether it is caused by a virus or a bacteria.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 12/4/2014

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Is Croup Contagious?

Croup is contagious. Symptoms of croup usually develop two to three days after exposure to viruses that cause the disease.