How do I Choose the Best Croup Treatment?

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  • Written By: Rebecca Harkin
  • Edited By: Allegra J. Lingo
  • Last Modified Date: 05 October 2019
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Croup is swelling around the vocal cords which produces a barking cough and is caused by a bacterial or viral infection, allergies, or inhaling noxious fumes. Typical croup treatment begins at home, and the best treatment is to expose the patient to cool moist air and taking a pain reliever and fever reducer. If this does not improve the condition and breathing worsens, a doctor must be seen for croup treatment with steroids to reduce the swelling in the throat and antibiotics. In rare and extreme cases, croup can lead to severely impaired breathing from bacterial tracheitis, an inflammation of the trachea, or epiglottitis, severe swelling of the epiglottis. When this occurs, the best treatment in both cases is typically intravenous steroids, antibiotics, and in extreme cases, intubation.


Children are more likely to develop croup because of their tiny airways, and if croup is observed in a child, it is often best to check with a pediatrician in case some underlying medical condition might exacerbate the croup. After checking in with the doctor, the best first croup treatment is to have the patient breath cool moist air which can come from a cool mist humidifier, steaming up a bathroom with a hot shower, or taking the patient out into the cooler outdoor air. Croup treatment with a cool mist humidifier can last all night, and treatment with a steamy bathroom or exposure to outdoor air should last about ten minutes at a time. If the patient is uncomfortable or has a fever, you can treat him with a pain reliever and fever reducer, if allowed by the doctor. It is often wise to stay close to the patient, even during the night, to periodically check their breathing.

If a patient does not respond to the cool moist therapy and begins to turn blue, drools, has difficulty swallowing, is agitated, makes a noise while inhaling, exhibits intercoastal retraction, or exhibits an influx between the ribs when inhaling, you need to take him in for emergency care. The best croup treatment at this stage is to reduce the swelling causing the breathing difficulty by giving the patient steroids, typically first via an injection. Once the patient is more stable, the steroids will be given using an inhaler, nebulizer, or pills. An antibiotic may also be given if a bacterial infection is suspected of causing the croup.

In rare cases, croup can progress to bacterial tracheitis or epiglottitis. These problems will be accompanied by more serious croup symptoms, such as making a noise on inhalation, intercoastal retraction, and struggling for breath. When bacterial tracheitis or epiglottitis are suspected, the patient is often admitted to the intensive care unit and given intravenous steroids, antibiotics, and fluids. If these measure do not improve breathing, the patient may be intubated.


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