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Croup, technically referred to as laryngotracheobronchitis, is characterized by the distinctive cough which sounds like a barking seal. It occurs in 3 to 6% of children under the age of six and is particularly prevalent in children ages 3 months to five years. The seal bark is preceded by cold symptoms and the child generally has a hoarse voice, difficulty breathing, and a sore throat. Croup occurs more often in the cold and flu season, and the symptoms generally get worse at night. It is considered extremely contagious as long as the child has a fever.


Croup is most often caused by several different viruses such as influenza, parainfluenza, and adenovirus. The mucous membranes of the vocal cords and the area just below them become inflamed and swollen as a result of the viral infection. It occurs in children because the area just below the vocal cords, the sub-glottic region, is extremely narrow compared to that of adults. Occasionally croup is caused by allergic reactions or bacterial infections as opposed to a virus. Two types of bacterial croup are acute epiglottitis and diphtheria.


The best prevention of croup is to prevent contraction of the viruses that cause croup. Minimize the contact your child has with other sick children, and do not smoke or let others smoke around your baby. Boost your child's immune system with vitamin C.


Use a cold air vaporizer or take your child into the cold night air if possible. If you do not have a vaporizer you can run a hot shower in the bathroom to produce steam for short-term relief. Give acetaminophen for fever and have your child drink lots of clear liquids. Avoid milk as this can cause mucous to form and tighten the airway even more. Hold your baby's head high for easier breathing. Try to keep your baby calm as crying only worsens croup. Closely monitor your child's symptoms. The pediatrician may prescribe steroids to relieve the symptoms of croup.


Watch your child for the following symptoms. If any of these occur, contact your pediatrician.

Fever over 101.3 degrees Fahrenheit
Pale skin
Difficulty breathing
Stridor- a high pitched sound created when breathing in
Rapid breathing
Drooling or trouble swallowing
Child cannot eat, drink or sleep
Crankiness or restlessness