Croup is a very common ailment seen primarily in infants, but in rare cases it is seen in adults. This is a viral infection that is contagious.

What is Croup?

croup cough

Croup is an upper respiratory infection typically caused by a viral infection called HPIV, or human parainfluenza virus. Viral croup obstructs breathing because of “swelling around the voice box (larynx), windpipe (trachea), and bronchial tubes,” according to The Mayo Clinic. Such swelling is in the upper airway and results in the characteristic “barking” cough, also known as “croup cough.”

The Boston Children’s Hospital says these viral infections are primarily seen in infants and children ranging in age from three months to five years old.

Can Adults Get Croup? Is it Mainly Seen in Infants?

Croup is most prominent in babies and young children because they have less developed immune systems. This illness is most commonly seen in young ones because of their small airways. It is recommended to call your doctor about any illness that affects your child’s breathing.

Adults can contract croup, but it is very rare. Health care providers, like Advanced Urgent Care & Occupational Medicine, offer treatments for many other upper respiratory infections that adults are more prone to. This includes illnesses like bronchitis, the common cold, mono, flu A, flu B, and RSV.

Croup Symptoms

Croup symptoms last anywhere from three to five days, depending on the severity, and can typically be treated with at-home remedies. The National Health Service says most cases clear up within 48 hours.

Like many upper respiratory infections, croup is most often seen in the fall and winter months. Symptoms include:

  • Loud, harsh cough (often described as a “barky cough”)
  • A raspy vibrating sound when breathing called stridor
  • Trouble breathing
  • Fever
  • Runny nose

The cough associated with croup is very distinct, as it produces a husky, seal-like sound. The sound is made due to the swollen vocal cords. Click here to hear an example of the barky cough as provided by Caring Casa.

Is Croup Contagious?

Croup is contagious, especially the first few days or while your child has a fever. The Cleveland Clinic confirms that “croup can be spread by physical contact or through the air.”

To prevent the spread of croup, best practices include:

  • Thoroughly washing your hands, as well as your child’s
  • Encouraging your child to cover their coughs and sneezes with their elbow or a tissue
  • Disinfecting toys and high-touch surfaces
  • Keeping your child away from others who are sick

Croup Treatment

Like any illness, it is best to encourage rest and treat the symptoms as best you can. Unfortunately, over-the-counter cold and cough medicines are not usually helpful, or recommended, in cases of croup.

Rather, use a humidifier and fluids to soothe your child’s throat and reduce further agitation. It is best to keep your little one as comfortable as possible, as stress and crying further irritate the throat. Giving them small amounts of a pain-killer, such as Tylenol, may reduce their fever.

Given that croup affects the throat and lungs, symptoms may be worse at night when they are laying down.

When is it Time to See a Doctor?

If your little one’s symptoms persist or worsen after three to five days, you should take them to the doctor. Severe cases of croup may require breathing treatments, prescription medication, or in more rare cases, hospitalization.

Severe cases may be characterized by:

  • Wheezing or high-pitched noises when breathing or crying
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Breathing at a faster rate than normal
  • The inability to breathe due to the airway swelling
  • Blue or gray skin around the nose, mouth, or fingernails (cyanosis)

We Can Help!

If you have concerns about your child’s health, schedule a visit at one of Advanced Urgent Care & Occupational Medicine’s clinics. Located across the Denver metro area, our staff is ready to help your family with a variety of pediatric concerns. Click here for a list of locations and to schedule a visit today. We’re open 7 days a week!