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What is Croup?

By By NRI Staff • Updated December 15, 2022

A Boy Lying on the Couch

Croup is a highly contagious respiratory illness that primarily affects children aged 3 months to 6 years. Croup typically begins with a cold or flu-like symptoms, such as a sore throat, fever, and cough. However, croup can quickly turn into a more serious condition, causing difficulty breathing and chest pain. If left untreated, croup can lead to pneumonia. The hallmark symptom of croup is a loud barking cough that produces mucus and can cause the child to run a high fever. Croup can also cause watery eyes, a sore throat, hoarseness, and wheezing.


Croup can be caused by several different types of viruses, including the parainfluenza virus, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), and adenovirus. These viruses are highly contagious and can be easily spread through coughing and sneezing. The viruses can cause inflammation and swelling in the airways, which narrows the airways and makes it difficult to breathe.

Risk Factors

There are a number of risk factors for catching croup, including exposure to cold weather or air pollution, having a history of asthma or allergies, and being around people who are sick. Children who are immunocompromised or have weakened immune systems are also at risk for developing croup.


The most common symptoms of croup are a hoarse voice, a barking cough, difficulty breathing and a rapid heartbeat. The child may also have a fever and be restless and agitated.


When a child exhibits symptoms of croup, such as a hoarse voice, difficulty breathing, or a cough that sounds like a seal bark, parents may be worried that their child has contracted the viral infection. It is important to note that not all cases of croup are caused by a virus and other causes, such as an allergic reaction or aspiration pneumonia, should be ruled out. 

If croup is suspected, the doctor will perform a physical examination and ask about the child’s symptoms. The doctor may also order diagnostic tests such as a chest x-ray or throat culture to help determine the cause of the illness. In some cases, a laryngoscopy may be performed to get a closer look at the vocal cords.


In some cases, croup can lead to complications such as pneumonia or laryngospasm although these are rare and most cases of croup are resolved in several days without complication. Complications of croup can range from mild to life-threatening. The most common complication is dehydration, which can lead to other serious problems such as seizures and kidney failure. Respiratory failure is another potentially life-threatening complication of croup. In severe cases, a child may need to be hospitalized for treatment.


Treatment for croup usually consists of humidified air, ibuprofen or acetaminophen for fever, and throat lozenges to help with the hoarseness. In severe cases, corticosteroids may be needed to reduce swelling in the airways.

Natural Remedies

One remedy is honey. Honey has been shown to be effective in relieving coughs and sore throats. It’s also a natural antiseptic, so it can help kill any bacteria that may be causing the infection. 

Another natural remedy that can help ease croup symptoms is steam. Sitting in a steamy bathroom or using a humidifier can help loosen mucus and make it easier to breathe. 

Finally, drinking lots of fluids can also help loosen mucus and keep your child hydrated.


Croup can be prevented by good hygiene practices, such as washing hands regularly and avoiding close contact with people who are sick. Immunization against the parainfluenza virus is also recommended as natural immunity following exposure to this virus is generally considered poor. Early diagnosis and treatment of croup is essential for a successful outcome.


In conclusion, croup is a common virus that can cause difficulty breathing in young children. It is important to be aware of the symptoms and seek medical attention if necessary. There are a variety of treatments available, and most cases resolve without any long-term problems.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is croup contagious?

Croup is highly contagious and can be spread through coughing and sneezing. It is most often caused by the parainfluenza virus.

Can adults get croup?

In some cases, croup can affect adults. The symptoms of croup in adults are very similar to those seen in children. They include a hoarse voice, difficulty breathing, and a loud cough.

How long does croup last?

The average croup episode lasts between 5 and 7 days, although it can last up to 2 weeks. In most cases, the child will start to feel better within 3-4 days. However, there is a small percentage of children who will continue to have symptoms for up to 2 weeks.

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