Home treatments for croup

Most cases of croup are mild and don't need medical treatment. If your child has a mild case of croup, there are many things you can do at home to help him feel better:

  • Stay calm. Croup can be scary for children —speaking quietly will soothe your child and make breathing easier. Try reading stories, listening to music or playing a quiet game.
  • Sit your child upright to make it easier for him to breathe.
  • Give your child moist air to breathe. Turn on the hot water in the shower and close the door. When the bathroom is steamy, shut off the water, close the door and then sit with your child in the steamy air for 10-15 minutes. Be sure to keep your child away from hot water to avoid burns.
  • Take your child outside at night for a few minutes to breathe the cool night air. Be sure to dress your child in warm clothing if it's cold outside.
  • If it's cool outside, bundle your child up warmly and buckle him into his car seat. Keeping your car heater turned off, drive around for 10 or 20 minutes. Sitting upright in cool air will help your child breathe easier.
  • Give your child lots of clear fluids to drink — diluted juice, water, and popsicles are good choices.
  • If your child has a fever and is uncomfortable, treat the fever with acetaminophen (for example, Children's Tylenol).
  • Sleep in the same room as your child or within hearing distance to monitor his breathing. If symptoms are not getting better with home care (steam, night air, sitting upright), see your doctor.

Don't give your child cough syrups – children under 14 years should not take over-the-counter cough medicines (cough suppressants or expectorants)..

Medical treatment for croup

In more serious cases, the doctor may prescribe corticosteroids to reduce the swelling in your child's airways and make breathing easier. Antibiotics are not used to treat croup since a virus causes it.
Sometimes oxygen with mist (humidified) or cool mist is given to children coming to the hospital with croup. This treatment helps to open the airways and reduce swelling and irritation.

When to seek emergency treatment:

Seek emergency medical help right away if your child has any of the following signs or symptoms:

  • drooling or trouble swallowing
  • blue lips/fingers
  • high fever — above 39°C (102°F)
  • difficulty breathing, the skin between the ribs pulls in with each breath
  • a high-pitched, squeaking sound when your child takes a breath (stridor)
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Page Last Updated: 19/08/2014