Now that winter is here, croup is making its way through schools. Croup is a contagious viral respiratory infection that mainly affects children. It is caused by common viruses such as the common cold, and causes inflammation around the windpipe, vocal cords and bronchial tubes.

Croup is generally not serious, as it typically begins as a cold. When vocal cords and the larynx become swollen, it causes a barking or whistle sound while coughing. Symptoms also include fever, loud breathing and hoarseness. Coughing can increase at night or if the child is upset and crying.

Children who are high risk of getting croup are those between ages six months to three years. Airway obstruction occurs in less than five percent of children. Parents should take their child the hospital if they notice the following problems:

  • Drooling and difficulty swallowing
  • Anxiety, agitation or fatigue
  • Fast breathing (more than usual)
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Blue skin near nose, mouth or fingernails
  • High-pitch breathing while inhaling and exhaling or wheezing

At home treatment is effective for most croup cases. This includes using humidifiers, keeping your child upright, keeping them hydrated with fluids, letting them sleep and giving them Ibuprofen. If symptoms get worse or last beyond three to five days, contact your physician. They may prescribe a steroid to reduce the inflammation.