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Offered by: Michele Tuepker, M.D. – Premier Pediatrics

With respiratory season quickly approaching, now is a great time to share some information about croup. In its most basic form, croup is an infection of the upper airway that causes swelling of the vocal cords, windpipe, and bronchi as they enter the lungs. This infection causes a distinctive bark like cough, similar to a seal bark. It is most commonly caused by a form of a virus called parainfluenza virus, however many other viruses can also cause croup.

Younger children are more likely to develop croup as their airways are smaller, and therefore a smaller amount of swelling causes more significant obstruction. There are several home treatments, including breathing hot humid air, or breathing cold air. If your child develops noisy, squeaky breathing, called stridor, or if they are working hard to breathe, they need to be evaluated.

In our office, we will check oxygen saturation, and, if needed, we can prescribe an oral steroid medication called dexamethasone, which helps reduce swelling within a few hours. If your child develops more significant symptoms and difficulty with breathing, or if they do not improve with home treatment and the oral steroid, they should be evaluated at Children’s Hospital for additional treatment.

While croup can be really scary for young children, the good news is that children outgrow croup as their anatomy gets bigger; the same amount of upper airway swelling no longer causes problems. For this reason, older children with croup may not need to be treated with steroids.

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