Loud barking cough of your child that worsens by night is heartbreaking and scary.

Croup is a viral infection that is found common in children up to 5 years of age. Croup refers to the upper airway inflammation and infection in your trachea and larynx that occurs in the late fall and winter. The inflammation and building up of mucus and other secretions in the lower throat can cause narrowing of the air passage. The narrowed passages cause cough, called barking seal and a loud, high pitched sound while breathing. Parents find it intimidating as the child experiences most discomfort in the night that increases when the child cries. Croup, normally, lasts only for less than a week.


  • The primary symptom of croup is cold and stuffy nose.
  • Fever.
  • Loud, dry, barking cough.
  • Fast, chesty noise when inhaling. It is quite easy to mistake the breathing sound (stridor) in the child with wheezing.
  • Hoarseness
  • It is important look for a pale or bluish tinge around the mouth, finger nails etc. It indicates lack of oxygen in extreme cases. Young infants and small children have much smaller airways than adults and any swelling in the windpipe may cause air obstruction in them. Get medical attention immediately if the child is making stridor noise (may block the air passage), unusual drooling, flaring nostrils, having trouble swallowing, showing lack of oxygen supply or is not better with cool air.


Alert: Epiglottitis and tracheitis are two other diseases which look like croup. Epiglottitis is a sudden swelling of the cartilage flap at the top of the throat that can totally block air supply. Tracheitis is the inflammation of the windpipe caused by a staph infection. Both need immediate medical attention. It may also be a foreign body in the child’s airway or even cancer. Hence, rule out the possibilities with a Medical Practitioner before trying alternative health care.


Croup can be triggered by other medical conditions like allergies, acid reflux, air irritants, measles, influenza etc. The main treatment for croup is drinking plenty of fluids and taking complete rest. Cough medicines are not a solution. Do not administer antihistamines or decongestants.

Cool or moist air helps barking cough a great deal. To moisten the room use humidifiers and while driving have the windows open to get fresh winter air. Or take a step out in to the cool air. Use hot water in the bathroom and make the child sit there for a few minutes to get enough moisture. You can do this several times in the night. Another way is to give the child a warm wet cloth to breathe through. Remember to monitor the fever and bring it down. Consult a physician or call your nurse on what to give for the fever and how much. Since close observation of the parent is necessary at this stage make sure you sleep with the child at night. Also, try to keep your child calm and not crying. Garlic supplements can fight viral infections while Echinacea ican increase immunity.

-AparnA K V

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