Ludlow Pediatrics, Inc. - Ludlow, MA
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What is croup?

Croup is a viral infection of the vocal cords, voice box (larynx) and windpipe (trachea).

Symptoms of croup include:

  • tight, low-pitched "barking" cough
  • a hoarse voice

Description of stridor:

  • A harsh, raspy, vibrating sound (stridor) is heard when your child breathes in. Click to hear recording of stridor
  • Breathing in becomes difficult.
  • Stridor only occurs with severe croup.
  • Stridor is usually only present with crying or coughing.
  • As the disease becomes worse, stridor also occurs when a child is sleeping or relaxed.

What cause croup?

Croup is a viral infection of the vocal cords, voice box (larynx), and windpipe (trachea). It is usually part of a cold. The hoarseness is due to swelling of the vocal cords. Stridor occurs as the opening between the cords becomes narrower.

How long will it last?

Croup usually lasts for 3 to 5 days and generally gets worse at night. During this time, it can change from mild to severe and back many times. The worst symptoms are seen in children under 3 years of age.

How is it treated?


If your child suddenly develops stridor or tight breathing, do the following:

The Foggy Bathroom -Have the warm shower running with the bathroom door closed. Once the room is all fogged up, take your child into the humidified bathroom for at least 10 minutes. Reading a story is a good distraction.

Most children settle down after the above treatments and then sleep peacefully through the night.

If the stridor continues, call our office immediately. If your child turns blue, passes out, or stops breathing, call EMS immediately (911).

HOME CARE FOR A CROUPY COUGH (without stridor):

Humidifier - Dry air usually makes a cough worse. Keep the child's bedroom humidified. Use a cool mist humidifier if you have one. Run it 24 hours daily.

Warm, Clear Fluids for Coughing Spasms - Coughing spasms are often due to sticky mucus caught on the vocal cords. Warm water, apple juice, or herbal tea may help relax the vocal cords and loosen the sticky mucus in children over 6 months.

Cough Medicines - Medicines are less helpful than either mist or swallowing warm fluids. If your child has a fever you may give acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Motrin/Advil).

Avoid Smoke Exposure - Do not let anyone smoke around your child. Smoke can make croup worse.

Contagiousness - The viruses that cause croup maybe contagious until the fever is gone. Your child can return to school or childcare once he or she is fever-free for 24 hours and is feeling better.



  • Breathing becomes difficult (when your child is not coughing).
  • Your child develops drooling, spitting, or difficulty in swallowing.
  • Your child develops retractions (tugging in) between the ribs.
  • The warm mist fails to clear up the stridor in 20 minutes.
  • Your child starts acting very sick.

During regular office hours if:

  • A fever lasts more than 4 days.
  • Croup lasts more than 3 days.
  • You have other concerns or questions.

This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.

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