Integrity Urgent Care First Aid Handbook – Croup

A young girl looks confused at the doctor's office
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This is the third in a series of blog posts designed to serve as a quick reference guide. Each will focus on a sudden injury or illness and is designed to help you make an informed decision on a plan of action when the unexpected happens.

The seal-like, barking, cough that accompanies croup can be scary for both you and your child. You can treat a mild case of croup at home, but more serious cases need to be evaluated by a medical professional. This guide will help you decide.

How do I know that my child has croup?

Croup is characterized by a barking, seal-like cough, a low-grade fever, and a harsh vibrating sound when your child breathes (known as stridor).

Croup usually affects children under age five. Usually, he or she will wake up in the middle of the night with a barking cough and difficulty breathing. Because it is worse at night, it often begins with normal cold symptoms earlier in the day. Croup is usually caused by a viral infection; the lining of the trachea swells up and closes the airways.

When should I seek IMMEDIATE medical care?

  • Your child is less than 3 months old and has a fever of 100 degrees or higher.
  • Your child has difficulty breathing or swallowing.
  • Your child is leaning forward to breathe or drooling.
  • Your child cannot speak or cry.
  • Your child has very noisy breathing.
  • Your child makes a high-pitched whistling sound when breathing.
  • Your child’s skin between the ribs or at the top of his or her chest is sucked in as they breathe.
  • Your child’s lips, fingernails, or skin have a bluish tinge.

When should I make an appointment to see a doctor?

  • If croup is accompanied by a fever in a child older than three months.
  • If croup lasts more than 7 days.

How can I treat croup at home?

A mild case of croup can be treated at home. First, try to calm your child. Breathing difficulty is scary, and an anxious child will have an even harder time taking deep breaths. Hold your child to your chest and rub his or her back. Talk soothingly and calmly.

You can try the following techniques:

  • If your child is older than six months, give ibuprofin every six hours to help with inflammation and fever.
  • Offer ice cold beverages or ice cream to help with throat swelling.
  • Place a cool-mist humidifier in your child’s room at night.
  • If the weather is cool, take a walk outside. Be sure to dress your child warmly.

DO NOT run hot water from the shower, close the bathroom door, and sit with your child in the steamy air. While this often-given advice is accurate for other upper respiratory infections, it can be dangerous your child has croup. The steam can cause further swelling of the throat, potentially leading to serious breathing problems that require immediate medical attention.

Keep your child well-hydrated, but do not attempt to give liquids during a coughing spell. Signs of dehydration include a dry mouth and lips and little to no urination.

Both Integrity Urgent Care locations are open daily from 8 am – 8 pm. Walk-ins are encouraged and appointments are never necessary. We’re only a phone call away if you need more information.

Sources:, Integrity Urgent Care’s Croup Guide

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