I think my child has croup. Do I need to bring him to the hospital?
Croup is usually a mild childhood illness that goes away on its own and doesn't require hospitalization. It is caused by different common cold viruses that can create swelling of the upper airway around the voice box (larynx) and produce a barking, seal-like cough. A child with croup often has cold symptoms such as a runny nose, and a low fever (under 102 degrees) may be present. Croup is most common in children under 6 years old.
In young children (especially children under age 2 or 3), croup can cause problems with breathing. There are also some rare conditions that resemble croup but are potentially more serious, such as bacterial infection of the trachea/windpipe or an abscess at the back of the throat.
Seek medical help immediately if your child shows any of the following symptoms for this childhood illness:
- Fast breathing
- Labored breathing (watch his chest and stomach; you will see more movement than usual, and the skin/muscles between the ribs may suck in as he breathes—these are called "retractions")
- Blueness around the mouth/lips
- Difficulty eating or drinking
- fever over 102 degrees
- Significant drooling
- Lethargy or unresponsiveness
If you think your child may have croup, but he does not have any of the symptoms listed above, there are a few home remedies you can try: Sit your child in a steamy bathroom or bundle him up and take him out in the cool night air for about 20 minutes. You can also try running a vaporizer or humidifier. If your child has mild symptoms, your pediatrician may prescribe a steroid medication to take by mouth to keep the croup from getting worse.