Table of Contents
- Croup facts
- What is croup? What causes croup?
- Is croup contagious? How does croup spread?
- What is the incubation period for croup?
- What are croup symptoms?
- How is the diagnosis of croup established?
- What is the treatment for croup? Are there home remedies for croup?
- How long is the contagious period for croup?
- What warning signs should parents look for with croup?
- Is it possible to prevent croup?
- What is the prognosis if my child develops croup?
Quick GuideChildhood Diseases: Measles, Mumps, & More
What are croup symptoms?
Viral croup can have two distinct presentations, both of which are a consequence of swelling of the vocal cords resulting in a narrowing of the airway. The more common variety has symptoms of fever (100 F-103 F), mild hoarseness, and sore throat two to three days after virus exposure. Quick to follow is the characteristic dry "barking seal" cough that may be associated with a harsh, raspy sound during inspiration. (This sound, called "stridor," has been noted to resemble the breathing of the Star Wars character Darth Vader.) The symptoms commonly last for four to seven days.
The alternative and less frequent presentation is called "acute spasmodic croup." These children will appear totally well when put to bed at night only to awaken their parents in the middle of the night with the above described barky cough and stridor. Fever and sore throat are not noted in these children, and the symptoms commonly resolve within eight to 10 hours from onset, and the child appears totally well until this same acute onset recurs the following night. This on/off pattern may occur over three to four nights in a row and then morph in to symptoms more characteristic of the common cold -- mucus-like nasal discharge and a "wet" cough for several days.
These two different presentations are the result of the particular virus that has infected the child. Manifestations of croup vary from mild (common) to life-threatening (rare). The severity of symptoms is proportional to the amount of relative narrowing of the airway. The more severe the vocal cord narrowing the more effort is required to inhale. A severely sick child will refuse to lie down, demanding to remain in an upright position. They will show retractions of the skin above the collarbone and between the ribs with inspiration and may develop facial cyanosis (bluish skin discoloration). Apparent exhaustion and decreased respiratory effort are an indication of impending respiratory failure and are cause for immediate paramedic evaluation and transport to the emergency department of the closest hospital.
In general, the duration of symptoms of croup is five to seven days. More severe croup may resolve in 14 days.
Malhotra, A., and L.R. Krilor. "Viral Croup." Pediatrics in Review 22.1 Jan. 2001: 5-12.
United States. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Human Parainfluenza Viruses (HPIVs)." Aug. 18, 2015. <http://www.cdc.gov/parainfluenza/index.html>.
Woods, Charles R. "Patient Information: Croup in Infants and Children." UptoDate.com. Aug. 18, 2010. <http://www.uptodate.com/patients/content/topic.do?topicKey=~IJIXh1W5371lMy>. IMAGES: