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Hi I'm Dr. Danelle Fisher, Board Certified Pediatrician with www.WestchesterPeds.com and I'm here today for About.com to talk to you about how to treat croup.

What is Croup?

Croup is a viral illness affecting the upper airway including the voice box or larynx. It commonly occurs in children from about 6 months to 6 years of age. Symptoms include fever and a barky cough, which is distinctive in nature. The illness lasts 5-6 days and is worse at night, peaking around the 2nd or 3rd night.

Signs of Croup Cough

Croup typically occurs in fall and winter. Symptoms start as a mild cold with a low-grade fever, but the fever may go as high as 104 degrees Fahrenheit.

The classic croupy cough is dry and barky, described as seal-like and worse at night. The child may have a hoarse voice when speaking or crying. Another distinctive sound heard with croup is stridor, which is a harsh noise made while breathing in, and can indicate narrowing in the upper airway. Some children will need to sit up to breathe. Severe breathing problems are rare but warrant a 911 call or an emergency room visit.

Treating Croup

So it's the middle of the night and your child wakes up with croup symptoms. What should you do? Croup responds well to humidified air. Take your child in the bathroom and run the hot water to create steam. Breathing this steam in for 10 minutes will help the swelling. Sometimes cold air can help, too. Dress your child in a warm jacket and take him or her outside for 10 minutes. Give a fever reducer such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen, and offer lots of clear liquids.

Do You Need to Call a Doctor About Croup?

If you are worried or things are not improving, call your pediatrician for more advice. Whether in the pediatrician's office or in an emergency room, treatment of croup is with steroids, given orally if the child can tolerate them.

If the oxygen level is too low, oxygen may be given by mask or by a tube that blows it near the child's face. Inhaled treatments such as epinephrine are rarely given in severe cases. There can be complications from croup, including ear infections and pneumonia, so talk to your doctor if your child has not improved in 7-10 days.

Unfortunately, croup can be caused by several different viruses, so if your child gets it once, he or she could get it again in the future. These viruses are transmitted by respiratory droplets so remember to wash your hands frequently and cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze.

Thanks for watching. For more information visit us online at About.com.
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