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Infant and Child Health


Home Treatment - When to Call a Health Professional


Croup is a respiratory problem that develops most often in children from 2 to 4 years of age. Croup may accompany a viral infection, such as a cold. The main symptom is a harsh cough that sounds like a seal's bark and may cause the child to become very frightened. A fever up to 38.3°C (101°F) is also common. Croup may last 1 to 7 days. Symptoms usually get worse at night, but they generally improve with each passing night.

Home Treatment

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  • Do whatever you can to calm your child. Crying can make breathing more difficult.

  • Get moisture into the air to make it easier for your child to breathe. Use a cool humidifier (do not use a hot vaporizer). Use only water in the humidifier. Set your child in your lap, and let the cool vapor blow directly into your child's face.

  • If your child does not improve after several minutes, take him or her into the bathroom and turn on all of the hot water faucets to create steam. Close the door, and sit with your child while he or she breathes in the moist air for several minutes.

  • If your child's breathing still does not improve, bundle him or her up and go outside into the cool night air.

When to Call a Health Professional

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  • Call 911 or seek emergency services if the child stops breathing or begins to turn blue. Give rescue breathing (See Rescue Breathing and CPR) until help arrives.

  • If these signs of respiratory distress appear and persist despite Home Treatment:

    • Squeaky or raspy sound as the child inhales (stridor).

    • Sucking in or retraction between ribs as the child inhales.

    • Flaring nostrils.

  • If the child is so short of breath that he or she can't walk or talk.

  • If the child drools or is breathing with the chin jutting out and the mouth open.

  • If the child is not calm enough to sleep after being in a room with a humidifier or breathing cold outdoor air for 20 minutes.

  • If the child has a fever of 38.3°C (101°F) or higher.

  • If you or the child becomes hysterical and cannot calm down.

  • If this is the first case of croup in your family and you need reassurance.

  • If croup lasts longer than 3 nights without improving.

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