Croup is quite a common viral respiratory tract illness that occurs mostly in children. It can sometimes cause severe symptoms such as difficulty in breathing.
We spoke to Dr Pramod Nair, a highly established paediatrician, to discuss croup and to get some answers to your frequently asked questions regarding the condition.
What is croup?
It’s a common viral infection of the airways which occurs in children between the ages of 6 months to 3 years. It can be caused by different types of viruses commonly around autumn and winter months. It usually presents with a typical “seal like barking” cough and sometimes harsh sounds when the child breaths in (stridor). Symptoms might be preceded by runny nose and mild fever but typically resolve within 48 hours. Some children particularly those with atopy (allergies) can have recurrent croups.
Is croup serious?
Usually not and the symptoms resolve spontaneously. In a very small proportion of children, the inflammation in the airways could be severe and therefore life threatening. It is important to differentiate it from epiglottitis (which is now a rare cause of stridor—thanks to immunisations!) in which the child looks very unwell with high temperatures. On an average 1 in 10 children are admitted to hospital but are usually discharged within 24 hours.
How did my child get it?
It’s a viral infection therefore community acquired.
Is it treatable?
Yes, if needed, your GP or paediatrician would prescribe a single dose of steroid.
What is the treatment?
In most children this resolves spontaneously but in some children, steroids might be needed. It is important to keep the child calm and avoid upsetting the child. Also, avoid cough medications or steam inhalations. Usually, a steroid called dexamethasone is prescribed at a dose of 0.15mg/kg once. Sometimes we use steroid nebulisers or injections if necessary.
What should I ask my paediatrician?
- Is my child serious?
- Does my child need hospitalisation?
- If the child is not in the typical age group—then is it croup?
- How can I help my child?
Any long-term complications?
Are there any new advances for the treatment of croup?
No but through research, we know that a smaller dose of steroid works the same as a bigger dose.
What are some danger signs to look out for if a child has croup?
High-grade fever, drooling, difficulty in swallowing, difficulty in breathing or reduced conscious levels—ask for urgent help!