A persistent cough is one of the most common concerns that parents have, especially for their little ones during the winter months.
While there are many illnesses that can cause a cough, one of the more common questions that I am asked is in respect to croup.
Otherwise known as acute laryngotracheobronchitis (isn’t that a mouthful), croup is caused by a viral infection of the upper respiratory tract which leads to mild inflammation and many times to a characteristic “barky” cough.
What Are Common Symptoms for Croup?
While there are many viruses that can have the associated symptoms of croup, the most common is the parainfluenza virus, which should not be confused with “the flu”.
We typically see croup in patients that are age 3 months to 3 years of age, and most often occurs in the fall and winter months.
Common symptoms of croup include a high-pitched, whistling sound that originates of the upper airway and a classic “seal-like barking” cough.
Other things that you may notice in your child are a runny nose, mild fever, and some fussiness.
What To Do for Cases Involving Croup
These symptoms tend to be worse at night and on the second or third day of illness. Most cases of croup are mild and last for approximately 3-7 days in duration.
In the family practice setting, croup is mostly treated conservatively. We recommend that the child be placed in a position of comfort and that they be exposed to cool air for periods of time.
We also recommend NSAIDs (such as Children’s Motrin – dosed per child’s weight) to help decrease swelling and provide a reduction in fever.
If your child’s symptoms are truly caused by the parainfluenza virus than antibiotics will do little to help your child improve.
Seek an Evaluation
There are several symptoms that may warrant an evaluation in a local emergency department over being seen out a clinic.
These include – disorientation, changes in your child’s normal skin color, abnormal muscle contraction around their chest, and decreased air entry around their mouth and/or nose.
Other worrisome symptoms are increased drooling (different from teething) and a rash that does not change color when pressed.
These symptoms should be of elevated concern in children that are not vaccinated or are otherwise immunocompromised.
Although worrisome to vigilant parents, croup is mostly treated with symptom management and children will progressively improve a few days after symptom onset.
Unfortunately, croup is contagious, and if there are other little ones in the home, it may be found again in another child.
A patient with croup is usually contagious for about three days after the onset of symptoms or until the fever has subsided.
As always, if you have any concerns please to not hesitate to have your child be evaluated at Button Family Practice.