Archived: Get the Scoop on Croup

Your child all of a sudden starts coughing in the middle of the night. It sounds like a barking dog or seal and can be scary for parents and children if you have not heard it before. What is it? It’s croup.

What is croup?

With winter upon us, so are many respiratory infections. Croup is one of them. It can be seen anytime of year, but more often seen in the fall and the winter months. The infection can last a week, with the worst of the illness the 2-3rd days. Croup is an infection that causes swelling of the upper airway. Because of this, younger children are more affected since their airways are smaller and swelling makes it harder to breathe. Children less than 5 years of age can be infected and children less than 3 years of age may have more severe infections.

What are other symptoms?

In addition to the barky cough, symptoms may include fever, hoarseness or trouble breathing. When your child breathes in, you may also hear extreme hoarseness. The symptoms may be worse at night and when your child is crying so do what you can to keep your child calm. Hug him, stay with him over the night or do whatever you know he likes to keep him calm and feel reassured.

What can I do for my child when they start coughing?

Sitting in the steamy bathroom with the shower running or using a cool mist humidifier may or may not help the cough, but can also help your child stay calm. Cool air, while taking a walk briefly into the cool air outside or taking a drive with the car windows down really helps. You can give Acetaminophen or Ibuprofen (children over 6 months of age) for fever. Encourage fluids over course of illness to avoid dehydration

How is it spread and how to avoid?

As with many other respiratory illnesses, croup is spread through direct contact and respiratory droplets in the air. Wash your hands, clean children’s toys between uses and teach your child how to cover mouth when coughing or sneezing. Be sure to keep your child home when ill.

How do I know when to call the doctor?

If your child is having labored breathing, difficulty breathing, difficulty speaking with the trouble breathing or blue lips, call your doctor. If you have any concern your child is having breathing difficulties, don’t hesitate to contact your pediatrician. The good news is that most cases can be treated at home, but rarely can be more severe and medications may need to be given.


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Alison Mitzner, M.D. is a board certified pediatrician. She received her medical degree from the State University of New York Health Science Center at Syracuse. After completing her pediatric residency at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset NY, she practiced general pediatrics for five years in a private practice in Manhattan, NY. During her years practicing, she was also an attending pediatrician at multiple New York City teaching hospitals where she admitted and examined newborns and pediatric patients. Additionally she supervised and taught hospital residents and medical students in various aspects of clinical and academic medicine. Alison has since moved into the pharmaceutical industry. She has had experience in the industry with leading safety teams and physicians and currently mentors many physicians globally.
Alison enjoys sharing her knowledge and experiences as a pediatrician (and mom) with other moms and dads in addition to supporting moms-to-be. She has contributed to various online websites and blogs. She also has an interest for creating healthier lifestyles and safer environments for pregnant women and children. Her outside interests include working out, acting, piano, guitar, dance, and being a mom!

You can find Alison at and follow on Instagram @alisonmitznermd

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