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What Are the Common Symptoms of Croup?

little girl with high fever

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  • Croup begins just like a cold, with indicators such as a sore throat, runny nose, cough and a high-temperature fever
  • If you notice these other signs of croup in your child, seek medical attention immediately

Croup symptoms typically last for three to five days and tend to affect children more, especially those below 3 years old, because they have small airways.1

Croup begins just like a cold, with indicators such as a sore throat, runny nose, cough and a high-temperature fever.2 The patient's cough worsens, eventually developing a loud barking sound that becomes prevalent at night. As a parent, it’s important to prevent  crying, coughing, anxiety and/or agitation as much as possible since they can worsen symptoms of croup in both children and babies.3

Croup patients also develop a hoarse voice and noisy or labored breathing, and make a harsh grating sound called stridor when breathing in. However, if you notice these other signs of croup in your child, seek medical attention immediately:4,5

Drooling or difficulty swallowing food

Child seems anxious and agitated, or fatigued and listless

Breathing at a faster rate than usual and/or struggling to breathe

The skin around the nose, mouth or fingernails (cyanosis) develops a bluish or greyish color

"Silent chest" phenomenon, wherein you're unable to hear sounds of breathing

Worsened cough or rasping sound (stridor)

The skin around the ribs and chest seems to be pulled in and tight, causing the bones of the chest and ribs to be more visible

Abnormal drowsiness and sleepiness

Rapid heartbeat or a falling heart rate

Very high temperature

Inability to drink fluids

Around 5 percent of those who end up in the emergency room because of croup are hospitalized. While most croup cases are mild, some patients experience swelling of the airway that eventually interferes with breathing. Do not attempt to check the child’s throat yourself, as it can cause a spasm, or sudden narrowing, of the airway.6

How Is Croup Diagnosed?

Diagnosing croup begins with the physician observing breathing patterns, listening to the child’s chest using a stethoscope and checking the throat. Common croup symptoms are also examined, such as the sound of the patient’s cough and temperature (to see if there is a fever). Your physician may also inquire if the child recently had a cold or a viral infection.7,8

A pulse oximetry test may also be recommended, wherein a sensor is clipped onto your child’s earlobe or finger to determine their oxygen levels, and whether the child is absorbing enough oxygen into the blood.

While croup can be diagnosed by checking symptoms, X-rays or other tests might be utilized to rule out other diseases. After all of these tests, your physician will decide whether the child would require hospitalization or can be treated for the disease at home. If your physician says that the disease isn’t croup, but the child exhibits the symptoms anyway, the causes may be:

An abnormality of the airway that's most likely been present since birth

An abscess in the tissues found at the back of the throat

Inhaled material in the body

Angioedema, a swelling of the skin's deeper layers

Epiglottitis, a potentially life-threatening illness wherein the epiglottis (a small cartilage "lid" that covers the windpipe) becomes swollen and blocks air flow into the lungs9

An allergic reaction

Congenital lesion

Tracheitis, an inflammation of the trachea or windpipe


Croup: Introduction

What Is Croup?

Is Croup Contagious?

Croup in Adults

Croup Symptoms

Croup Causes

Types of Croup

Croup Treatment

Essential Oils for Croup

Croup Prevention

Croup FAQ

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