Treatment for Croup

With the guidance of a qualified health care provider, many cases of viral croup can be treated at home. The following home care tips may be helpful to reduce croup symptoms:

  • Avoid all irritants, such as smoke, dust, and any known allergens.
  • Allow the child to breath fresh air (while clothed appropriately for the weather).
  • Bring the child into a steam-filled bathroom for 20–30 minutes.
  • Encourage the child to drink plenty of fluids.
  • Encourage the child to remain calm. (Try to stay calm yourself.)
  • Hold the child in an upright position.
  • Humidify the air in the child's room using a cool-mist humidifier.
  • Sleep in the same room as the child. (This may allow you to respond more quickly if the child develops breathing difficulties during the night.)

Because most cases of croup are caused by a virus, medications usually are not used to treat the condition. Antibiotics generally are prescribed for croup caused by bacterial infection.

Follow the advice of the child's physician regarding the use of acetaminophen (Tylenol®) to help relieve discomfort and reduce fever. Avoid cough medicines unless directed by a qualified health care provider. If the child is under the age of 2 years, do not use non-prescription cough and cold medications unless directed by his or her physician.

Serious cases of croup can develop into breathing complications that require prescription medications and/or hospitalization. Medications for airway swelling include inhaled epinephrine or other bronchodilators, oral corticosteroids (e.g., dexamethasone, prednisone), and injected corticosteroids.

Medication to open the airway may be administered through a nebulizer. A nebulizer is a small machine that creates a medicated mist that the child can easily inhale through a mask that covers his or her mouth and nose.

For serious breathing difficulties resulting from croup, hospitalization may be necessary. While the child is in the hospital, an oxygen tent may be used to provide oxygen and humidity to the lungs. In very rare cases, a breathing tube inserted in the windpipe may be necessary.

Publication Review By: Stanley J. Swierzewski, III, M.D.

Published: 27 Aug 2008

Last Modified: 10 Sep 2015