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Croup is caused by a virus that creates inflammation in the upper airways around the vocal cord area. It tends to be most common in children 6 months to 3 years old, but can affect older children as well. It is very contagious. Outbreaks of croup typically occur in the fall and early winter, but can happen any time of the year.


  • Cold symptoms: stuffy or runny nose; fever is possible
  • Upper airway is swollen: hoarse and "seal-bark" cough

Croup can cause a very strange and unsettling sound when a baby breathes in called stridor. There can also be a severe cough, known as a seal-bark cough, which tends to have similar characteristics as a normal cough but the sound of the cough is very distinct and can be quite alarming.

Croup tends to be the worst in the middle of the night or as soon as the baby wakes up from a nap. Oftentimes the baby will be fine during the day.


Croup symptoms generally appear two or three days after the basic cold symptoms start, but can come on all of the sudden without warning, typically in the middle of the night. Croup usually lasts three to seven days.

Treatments for Croup

Home Remedies:

  • Cold air breathing treatment
  • Steam breathing treatment

There are different types of treatments for babies who have croup. Getting cold or hot air into the baby’s airways can make a significant difference. For a cold air treatment, opening the freezer or standing outside in the winter, with the baby bundled up, are simple home treatments to allow cold air to constrict the baby’s vocal cords. Another option is to allow steam into the baby’s airways by going into a bathroom, shutting the door, turning the shower on as hot as possible, and sitting in the steamy bathroom with your baby to allow the hot air to get into your baby’s airways.

More Severe:

  • Steroid prescription or steroid shot in clinic
  • Epinephrine breathing treatment

Some croup cases are more severe and need medical attention right away. The doctor can prescribe steroids for a baby or a different breathing treatment with epinephrine in the clinic to help treat croup.  Again, croup is very common, but with the scary sounds, it can be worrisome for a parent. If the home remedies do not give your baby any relief, call your doctor.

To prevent the spread of croup, wash hands frequently and avoid contact with people who have respiratory infections. Get medical attention immediately if your child has difficulty breathing, stridor, difficulty swallowing, a fatigued appearance, signs of dehydration, or a very sick appearance.

  • Croup

    ​Croup is another virus that we see or it's caused by a virus. It causes inflammation of the upper airways. So the vocal cord area gets really swollen and it causes a crazy sound.

    Usually, when they breathe in it's really noisy. That's called strider. They can also get a horrible cough. It's the "seal bark" cough is the classic description of the cough.

    Croup tends to be the worst in the middle of the night or waking up from naps. Those are the two times when you tend to see croup having the worst symptoms. Usually during the day they're fine but night time rolls around and they're really sick again. So we usually treat based on those symptoms to help them get through the night.

    How is croup treated?

    We will prescribe a steroid for some babies with croup or do a different kind of breathing treatment, with epinephrine, in clinic to help treat the croup symptoms.

    If you're home and your baby is a little older and they're not in too much distress you can use cold air. So you can either have the freezer door open, if it's a summer night, you can open the freezer and stand by the freezer. That cold air can help or if it's in the middle of winter, you can stand outside with a baby. Bundle them up and that really cold air can constrict those vocal cords down.

    The other thing we use is a hot, steamy shower. Turn the shower on as hot as it goes, close the door in the bathroom and stand in there. That hot air can really help as well.

    Croup is a very common thing. It's usually nothing to worry about, but with that severe, those sounds that you hear and that respiratory distress, we would say call right away. Try those quick maneuvers at home of the cold air or the hot, steamy shower. If they're not giving you any relief, come in. ​

Illness and Injury Pediatrics