The treatment of croup depends on how severe the condition is. Most cases of croup do not need treating because the condition usually gets better on its own and often only lasts for a short period of time.
However, if your child has severe croup, they will need to be admitted to hospital urgently.
Comforting your child
If your child is distressed, sitting them upright on your lap will help to comfort and reassure them. Comforting your child is important because if they are crying and distressed, it may make their symptoms worse.
Treating mild croup
Mild cases of croup can be managed at home. If your child has a fever, paracetamol will help to lower their temperature. Your child should also drink plenty of fluids to ensure that they remain well hydrated.
Although there is a lack of scientific evidence to support its use, it may be of benefit to supervise your child while they breathe in steam from a hot bath or shower in a closed room.
You should seek urgent medical advice if you notice your child's symptoms getting worse.
Painkillers, such as paracetamol and ibuprofen, are available in liquid form, which makes them ideal for young children. You can get liquid paracetamol over the counter from pharmacies and some supermarkets.
You should not give paracetamol to your child if they have previously had a bad reaction to it or if they are sensitive to it. Children under 16 years of age should not be given aspirin.
Babies and children aged over three months can be given ibuprofen as long as they weigh over 5kg (11lb) and they do not have a history of asthma, heart problems, kidney problems, stomach ulcers or indigestion. As with paracetamol, you should also avoid giving children ibuprofen if they have a history of bad reactions or sensitivity to it.
Before giving any medication to your child, make sure you read and follow the dosage information on the packaging or patient information leaflet that comes with the product.
Speak to your GP or pharmacist if you are unsure about what type of painkiller is suitable for your child.
If your child has moderate croup, your GP may decide to prescribe corticosteroids to help ease their symptoms. Corticosteroids reduce inflammation (swelling) in the throat.
Dexamethasone or prednisolone are two types of corticosteroid that are often used to treat moderate croup.
This type of medication can be taken as a tablet or inhaled using a nebuliser (an inhaler device).
Although they are frequently used potential side effects of these corticosteroids include:
- upset stomach
- difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep
Major side effects with steroids are unusual in the short courses of treatment that are normally used for croup.
Breathing problems, such as shortness of breath, are a major symptom of severe croup.
You should dial 112 (999) immediately for an ambulance if your child is struggling to breathe.
If your child is very distressed and they are finding it very difficult to breathe, they will be given oxygen through an oxygen mask.
An oral corticosteroid will also be given to help reduce any inflammation (swelling) in your child's airways. Soluable prednisolone is usually prescribed for cases of severe croup.
However, if your child is unable to tolerate the side effects of this treatment, they may be given another type of corticosteroid called budesonide. If necessary, a nebuliser can be used to administer the medication.
In less than 1% of croup cases that require hospitalisation, a child may need intubation. This would be quite rare. Intubation is where a tube is inserted either through a nostril or the mouth and passed down into the windpipe. This will help your child to breathe more easily.
Intubation is usually performed under general anaesthetic. This means your child will be completely unconscious throughout the procedure so they do not experience any pain or distress.