Medical Moment: What is Croup?

Dr. Diana Koelliker, Medical Director of Emergency Services & Telluride EMS Director

Medical Moment: What is Croup?

Telluride Inside… and Out is proud to feature the Telluride Medical Center’s MEDICAL MOMENT, a weekly column that answers common medical questions in pop culture. Have a question for the doctors? Click here to send.

Dr. Diana Koelliker answers this week’s question: What is croup


Dr. Diana Koelliker, Medical Director of Emergency Services & Telluride EMS Director

Croup is an upper respiratory illness caused by a virus.

The virus affects the tissue around the vocal cords and causes swelling, which can lead to noisy breathing and a bark-like cough.

Croup is typically seen in children ages 6 months to 5 years, although it is occasionally seen in older children. The illness is most prevalent in the fall and winter months, but can occur year-round.

Transmission of the illness is by respiratory droplets (coughing or sneezing) and/or direct contact. Most children with croup will have a hoarse voice, runny nose, fever, and the characteristic bark-like or croupy cough.

Croup usually lasts about 4-6 days with a peak of symptoms around day 2 or 3. In the majority of cases, the disease is mild and self-limited (meaning it gets better without any intervention).

Occasionally, children can exhibit more severe airway obstruction and may require nebulized medication or even hospitalization. Research has shown that a single dose of oral or injected steroids can shorten the course and lessen the severity of the symptoms.

Treatment of croup is aimed at encouraging fluid intake and treating fever with acetaminophen or ibuprofen.

Additionally, humidified air, in the form of a vaporizer or humidifier is helpful in lessening the symptoms. Because croup is caused by a virus, antibiotics are not necessary or effective in the treatment.

Croup is contagious, so ill children should not go to school and good hand washing and general hygiene should be observed to prevent spread of the virus. You should contact your doctor if your child has a croupy cough to discuss treatment options.

Editor’s note: The Telluride Medical Center is the only 24-hour emergency facility within 65 miles. As a mountain town in a challenging, remote environment, a thriving medical center is vital to our community’s health.

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