Croup in Babies and Toddlers: Symptoms & Home Remedies


Little ones are delicate to handle and require much care. They are in their developing phase and have low immunity which makes them vulnerable to environment and other things capable of causing diseases.  Such a disease or discomfort discussed below is CROUP. Croup is common illness seen in young children.

croup cough sound

In this article:

What is Croup ?
Causes of  Croup in Babies and Toddlers
Is Croup Contagious?
What Does Croup Sound Like?
Other Croup Symptoms
How Long Does Croup Last?
Treatment for Croup in Babies and Toddlers
Medication of Croup in Babies and Toddlers
Home Remedies to Treat Croup
Prevention of Croup in Babies and Toddlers

A Guide for Croup in Babies and Toddlers

What is Croup ?

It is defined as swelling of voice box medically known as larynx and windpipe also called trachea. This swelling is the  main cause for narrowing of the airway situated below the vocal cords and this results in noisy breathing and barking cough. This is mainly due to infection.  Croup is also known as laryngotracheobrochitis.

Children aged between 3 to 5 years are more likely to get infected and suffer from croup. But with increase in age , croup becomes less common as the windpipe is large and swelling reduces and does not interfere in between the breathing. Croup can occur in any season but usually seen in winters.

It can be classified as :

  • Viral Croup
  • Bacterial Croup
  • Viral Croup : It is the most common type. Acute croup is caused by a virus as recurrent or spasmodic croup. They are clinically similar to each other and it is difficult to diagnose. It is said spasmodic croup is caused due to allergens like pollen or bee sting or due to any hypersensitivity reaction to viral antigen.
  • Bacterial Croup : Caused by bacterial infection. It is a rare type when compared to viral croup. It is further divided as bacterial tracheitis, laryngotracheobronchitis (LTB), Laryngotracheobronchopneumonitis (LTBP) and Laryngeal Diphtheria.

Causes of  Croup in Babies and Toddlers

 Viral Croup

Human parainfluenza  virus type 1,2, and 3 causes 80% of the croup but among these 66% of the infection is caused by type 1 and 2 of the human parainflueza viruses. The cause of milder illness is sometimes associated with type 4 but it is not understood well.

Various other viruses which can also cause croup are:

  • Respiratory syncytial virus
  • Metapneumovirus
  • Influenza A and B
  • Adenovirus
  • Coronavirus
  • Mycoplasma

Croup  is also related  to genetics,  children having a family history of croup  are more prone to spasmodic and acute croup. Previous history of croup can also increase the risk of spasmodic croup.

Bacterial Croup

Most common cause of bacterial croup is the bacteria Staphylococcus aureus. Other bacteria which can also cause croup are S. pyogenes, S. pneumonia, Haemophilus influenza  etc.

The areas affected by bacterial infection are the same as that of by viral infection but if we compare the severity than the bacterial infection is more severe as compared to viral infection.

Is Croup Contagious?

Yes,  croup is contagious means it spreads from person to person . The pathogens that cause croup may spread by airborne respiratory droplets ( coughing and sneezing),  by skin to skin contact that is through handshakes and hugs , by saliva through kissing or shared drinks and by touching blankets and doorknobs.

What Does Croup Sound Like?

  • Cough of croup is very loud and harsh and gives a characteristic sound of barking seal.
  • The frequency of cough usually increases at night and it is accompanied by labored or noisy breathing means when the child inhales there is high pitched  breathing sound called stridor.

Other Croup Symptoms

Barking cough at night is the main symptom of croup. The symptoms that a child experiences before start of cough are sore throat, running nose, congestion and mild fever.

85% of the croup is mild and lasts less than a week and this milder form turns into severe form when there is difficulty in breathing.

Other symptoms are:

  • Hoarse throat
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Dehydration
  • Low oxygen levels
  • Rashes
  • Redness of eyes
  • Noisy breathing
  • Fingers, lips, tongue, tip of nose etc. become blue.
  • High fever

Pneumonia , pulmonary edema and bacterial tracheitis are some uncommon complication of the croup.

How Long Does Croup Last?

Croup lasts from several days up to a week  generally and it may sometimes recur.

Treatment for Croup in Babies and Toddlers

The croup can be treated at home but it becomes scary if it lands in doctors office or hospital. Treatment is given on the basis of severity of the croup.

Comfort of child and calmness is important because crying may worsen obstruction of the airways. So sing lullabies and read stories to comfort your child.

Medication of Croup in Babies and Toddlers

  • As steroids are anti- inflammatory so some steroids having long lasting effect like dexamethasone is given, it reduces inflammation of the airway.
  • Other treatment for reducing inflammation of airways is Epinephrine, it is given in inhaled form through nebulizer.

If after taking this treatment the croup becomes severe then the child should be hospitalized and should receive additional treatments.

Home Remedies to Treat Croup

Croup can be treated at home itself . Cough sounds scary but given below measures can help in curing the discomfort in the barking toddler.

  • Going out in the night air : On cool evening the little one should be taken out of the house in the fresh air for at least 15 minutes and let to respire for several minutes.
  • Staying Hydrated : Plenty of fluids are to be given to soothe the sore throat of the baby such as chamomile tea with honey.
  • Medication such as acetaminophen : If the baby has a fever, acetaminophen should be given.
  • Use of humidifier : Cool- mist humidifier should run in the baby’s room during her sleep.
  • Bathe in steamy bathroom : During the hot shower bath , close the door and let the baby stand in the steamy bathroom for almost 10 to 20 minutes. It is advised for adult to accompany the child.

Prevention of Croup in Babies and Toddlers

The best way to avoid croup is to make the child wash his hands regularly. Also to avoid people suffering from any respiratory disease and teaching them to cover her mouth while sneezing and coughing to avoid spread of infection.