Croup in toddlers


The swelling of the trachea/windpipe or the larynx/voice box due to infection by bacteria, viruses, etc. or due to allergic reactions is known as croup.

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In most of the cases, croup in toddlers is caused by parainfluenza virus. However other viruses such as adenovirus, respiratory syncytial virus or RSV, measles and influenza can also cause croup in toddlers.

A child of any age group can develop croup, but children between the age group of six months to three years are generally affected by croup in toddlers. It normally occurs in the period between the months of October and March.

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Symptoms of croup in toddlers

  • Croup in toddlers causes inflammation of the throat and the voice box, and hence can alter the sound of cough as well as the voice. The affected toddler will elicit a hoarse, deep and distinctive cough.
  • The symptoms of cold remain for many days and is worse during night. This may be followed by croup in toddlers
  • The toddler may suffer from breathing difficulty or stridor, and may elicit nasal noises during inhalation that can be compared to crowing or high-pitched squawking noise.
  • Croup in toddlers remains for a week and the first three nights are the most laborious and problematic
  • Take the toddler to the doctor as soon as the child shows the signs of croup. Immediately call 911, if the toddler’s lips and skin turn blue and if he/she suffers from breathing difficulties.

Treatment of croup in toddlers

  • Cold air and moist atmosphere help to reduce the swelling of the respiratory tract. Hence keep the child in steamy bathroom for 15 to 20 minutes within closed doors.
  • Take the child out into cold night air and hold him/her upright which may help the child to breathe more easily. It can be repeated whenever the child wakes up with cough.
  • To maintain a humid climate, one may use a cool-mist humidifier in the infant’s room.
  • The toddler should be given plenty of fluids.
  • Give the child the proper dose of acetaminophen or ibuprofen. But never give aspirin as it may develop the side effect of Reye’s syndrome which is fatal.
  • Since virus is mainly responsible for causing croup in toddlers, do not treat the child with antibiotics. Also do not administer the cough medicine, as it may make it difficult for the toddler to cough up mucus.
  • If the steamy bathroom and the cold air techniques are not giving any relief, oral steroids may be prescribed by the doctor.
  • In severe cases of croup in toddlers, hospitalization may become necessary. The toddler may be given oxygen, steroids for reducing the swelling and medications to help inhalation. To avoid dehydration, intravenous fluids may be given.
  • The vaccines for Haemophilus influenza, measles and diphtheria have helped to avoid dangerous forms of croup in toddlers
  • Croup in toddlers can recur. Until the airways get fully developed, some children are prone to develop the condition. Different episodes of croup in toddlers may differ from one an another. In some children it may be severe in nature, which may need aggressive treatment.
  • Croup in toddlers is not contagious, except the cases of viral infection.
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