Viral croup; Laryngotracheobronchitis – acute; Spasmodic croup
Definition of Croup
Croup is accompanied by a “barking” cough. Croup, which is swelling around the vocal cords, is common in infants and children and can have a variety of causes.
Causes, incidence, and risk factors
Viral croup is the most common. Other possible causes include bacteria, allergies, and inhaled irritants. Acid reflux from the stomach can trigger croup.
Croup features a cough that sounds like a seal barking. Most children have what appears to be a mild cold for several days before the barking cough becomes evident. As the cough gets more frequent, the child may have labored breathing or stridor (a harsh, crowing noise made during inspiration).
Signs and tests
Children with croup are usually diagnosed based on the parent’s description of the symptoms and a physical exam. Sometimes a doctor will even identify croup by listening to a child cough over the phone. Occasionally other studies, such as x-rays, are needed.
Most cases of croup can be safely managed at home, but call your health care provider for guidance, even in the middle of the night.
Viral croup usually goes away in 3 to 7 days. The outlook for bacterial croup is good with prompt treatment.
Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington, School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc. – 5/13/2010