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Croup is an infection that causes swelling in the windpipe (trachea) and voice box (larynx). The swelling causes a loud, barking cough and sometimes makes breathing hard. Croup can be scary for you and your child, but it is rarely serious. In most cases, croup lasts from 2 to 5 days and can be treated at home.
Croup usually occurs a few days after the start of a cold and in most cases is caused by the same virus that causes the cold. Croup is worse at night but gets better with each night that passes.
Sometimes a doctor will give medicine to decrease swelling. This medicine might be given as a shot or by mouth. Because croup is caused by a virus, antibiotics will not help your child get better. But children sometimes get an ear infection or other bacterial infection along with croup. Antibiotics may help in that case.
The doctor has checked your child carefully, but problems can develop later. If you notice any problems or new symptoms, get medical treatment right away.
Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.
Call 911 anytime you think your child may need emergency care. For example, call if:
Call your doctor or nurse advice line now or seek immediate medical care if:
Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse advice line if:
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Current as of: March 1, 2023
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine & John Pope MD - Pediatrics & Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.
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