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How is Croup Treated?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 17, 2024
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Croup is an inflammation of the windpipe in children which is usually treated with exposure to moist air to keep the airway open. In most cases, croup will clear up on its own, especially with self-care measures at home. However, in some instances a case of croup may be more severe, requiring medical intervention. If a child is having extreme difficulty breathing, is drooling, has discolored or pale skin, or is extremely anxious, the croup may be a more serious condition, and medical attention should be sought immediately.

Generally, croup is very easy to recognize. It often comes on very suddenly, with a child seeming fine when he or she goes to bed and then waking up with a short, barking cough and a classic whistling noise when breathing. The condition is often caused by infections of the larynx, and it can be scary at first. The important thing to remember when dealing with croup is that it is important to stay calm and cheerful so that you do not alarm the child.

One of the best treatments for croup is to turn the shower on in a small bathroom and close the door, filling the bathroom with warm steam. Sit with the child in the bathroom while he or she inhales the moist air; often, the croup clears up significantly. A child with croup can also be taken outdoors to inhale cool moist air. On subsequent nights, it may help to place a vaporizer or humidifier in the child's room to up the humidity, keeping the airway clear.

The simple act of increasing humidity is often enough to resolve a case of croup. However, if it persists or if the symptoms get worse, it may be time to go to the doctor. A doctor can prescribe steroids to open the child's airway, along with antibiotics to treat the source of infection. Hospitals can also offer humidified tents for children to rest in, and in extreme cases a child may be intubated to ensure that his or her flow of oxygen is unimpeded.

Croup tends to happen more during the winter months, and it strikes children from around three months to six years of age. If your child gets a case of croup, it is not a sign of bad parenting or neglect; random infections can appear in even the healthiest of children. The condition might be an indicator of allergies, however, so if your child has recurrent croup, you may want to consider allergy testing and evaluation.

You can help to prevent croup by using the same techniques you use to avoid cold and flu infection. Encourage the child to wash his or her hands, and teach your child about the proper use of tissues and handkerchiefs to prevent the spread of colds to others. You should also ensure that your child's vaccinations are current; croup is associated with diphtheria, a severe and entirely preventable disease.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WiseGeek researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By anon306628 — On Nov 30, 2012

The best treatment for croup is cool, moist air, not steam.

Croup is the swelling/inflammation of tissue within the upper throat area. Steam will actually tend to increase the inflammation, whereas cool, moist air will reduce it in a matter of minutes. All pediatricians will recommend cool, moist air as their primary treatment for children suffering from croup.

Go outside and breathe the cool air or open a freezer door for a few minutes. Treat it like a sprained ankle. To reduce, you use ice, not heat or steam.

Inflammation is inflammation. Cool, moist air is the answer.

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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