Croup (laryngotracheobronchitis) is an infection of the upper respiratory tract that affects the larynx (voice box), trachea (windpipe), and bronchi (airways) of young children, typically between the ages of three months and five years. It is caused by a virus, most commonly the parainfluenza virus, and is characterized by a barking cough, hoarse voice, and difficulty breathing. Other symptoms may include a fever, runny nose, and a harsh, high-pitched sound when breathing in (stridor).
Croup is usually mild and can be treated with home remedies such as humidified air, increased fluids, and rest. In more severe cases, however, hospitalization may be necessary. Hospital treatment may include administering oxygen, nebulized medications, or steroids to reduce swelling in the airways. In rare cases, a tracheotomy may be required to open the airways.
Healthcare providers must recognize croup's signs and symptoms and the associated risk factors to provide appropriate treatment and prevent complications. Risk factors for croup include exposure to second-hand smoke, attending daycare, and having a family history of croup.