Croup: Managing a Croup Attack
Using techniques to help your child control symptoms of croup can help prevent the need to see a doctor at a clinic or emergency room. These techniques focus on keeping your child's airway open to make breathing easier.
- Keep calm and soothe your child. Anxiety and panic can make symptoms worse.
- Recognize that symptoms often sound and appear worse than they really are.
- Use moisture.
How can you help manage your child's croup episode?
A croup attack usually can be managed at home. To help manage your child's episode of croup:
- Keep calm. An episode of severe coughing and breathing difficulty from croup can be unsettling or frightening. But it is usually not as severe as it sounds. Staying calm will help reassure your child and may prevent symptoms from becoming worse.
- Use techniques that soothe and comfort your child. If your child becomes upset and anxious, croup symptoms may get worse. For example, crying can make breathing more difficult. Provide comfort by holding or rocking your child. You may also be able to distract your child by reading a book, working a puzzle, or watching television.
- Create moist air. Take your child into the bathroom, shut the door, and turn on all the hot water faucets to create a moist and steamy atmosphere. Let your child breathe in the moist air for several minutes.
- Take your child outside. Exposure to cool outdoor air often helps open a child's airways, reducing the coughing and breathing difficulty of a croup attack. Make sure your child is bundled up appropriately before going out.
If symptoms improve with these methods, put your child back in bed. Do not smoke, especially in the house. If the episode occurs during the middle of the night, it is a good idea to sleep in or near your child's room until morning.
It is important to keep your child well hydrated. Offer water, noncaffeinated drinks, flavored ice treats (such as Popsicles), or crushed ice drinks several times each hour.
Your child may have recurrent attacks throughout the night. As long as symptoms improve with these methods, even briefly, your child should gradually feel better and you likely will not need immediate medical care.
But if at any time your child has severe difficulty breathing, call 911 or other emergency services immediately.
Current as of: December 12, 2018
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:John Pope, MD, MPH - Pediatrics & Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine