Healthy Living

Croup in Adults

Croup in Adults

Key Takeaways

  • The cases of croup in adults usually occur anywhere from two to four days after contracting the infection.
  • Similar to croup in children, the symptoms of croup in adults are often worse at night.
  • The parainfluenza virus is the most common cause of croup in adults.

Croup is a very common respiratory infection in children, but it can also occur in adults. It can occur at any point and is quite infectious, with the virus often being dispersed through the air, and this causes the infection to spread to others. Croup is also caused by bacterial infections. This may result in interrupted breathing patterns during sleep, often leaving the patient feeling fatigued.

Croup causes an obstruction in the passage of air through a person's airway, resulting in a barking cough and noisy breathing. The reason for these symptoms is the inflammation of the trachea and larynx and sometimes the bronchi or bronchial tubes, as well. The swelling of the vocal cord also results in a noisy cough and the inhalation of breath making a high-pitched sound called stridor. If you find it difficult to breathe and notice a sudden change in your voice, then it is high time that you consulted a doctor and sought an effective treatment for the same.

Children, particularly those from 1 to 3 years old, are commonly the ones affected by croup. The reason is that they have small and narrow airways. As children grow up, their breathing tubes become wider and more firm, which is why croup is not common after the age of six. At this stage, the chances of having croup are greatly decreased. However, it is still possible to acquire croup throughout a person's life. Even adults can still be affected by this viral illness.

If your child starts showing symptoms of croup, then you need to consult a pediatrician right away and seek effective treatment for it before it takes a turn for the worse. Children are quite susceptible, and since their trachea and other body parts are undeveloped, croup continues to remain a serious health issue where children are concerned.

What are the symptoms of croup in adults?

The cases of croup in adults usually show symptoms after an incubation period of 2 to 4 days. During this period, a mild cough, rhinorrhea, and a low-grade fever appear. Later on in the illness, the telltale cough develops, which is the result of the inflammation of the patient's airways. Exudates and erythema are also observed.

If you start showing some of these symptoms, you need to consult your physician right away. Your doctor may want to run a few tests to determine whether the croup is viral or bacterial and treat accordingly for the same.

A cough that results from croup is characterized by a harsh, barking sound that resembles the sound of seals. Hoarseness of voice may also occur because of the swelling of the vocal cords. The swelling caused by croup does not usually cause a difficulty in swallowing. Similar to croup in children, the symptoms of croup in adults are usually worse at night.

Apart from the symptoms already mentioned, many patients could also show a discoloration of the skin during their croup infection. The skin around the nose, mouth, and fingernails can turn gray or blue. If this happens, then you must contact your doctor immediately. When meeting up with your doctor, you would need to be completely upfront with your doctor about your medical history and allergies, if any, as this can have a bearing on the treatment recommended.

Causes of Croup in Adults

The parainfluenza virus (a viral infection) is the most common cause of croup in adults. Adults can contract the virus by breathing in infected particles that are introduced into the air through coughing or sneezing. These airborne droplets contain virus particles, which remain alive on many different surfaces. While parainfluenza viruses are the main causes of croup in adults and children, there are several other viruses that can cause croup, as well. These other viruses that can cause croup include the adenovirus, which is part of another group of common cold viruses, respiratory syncytial virus, and measles.

Like all viruses, croup is quite infectious, which is why a speedy diagnosis is crucial, so as to provide you with adequate treatment and to prevent you from spreading the infection to others. If you start showing some of the symptoms, including change in hue, it is time for you to seek out a medical consult to see if you do have croup or if you are suffering from some other health condition with similar symptoms.

Other than viruses, croup is also known to be caused by allergies, bacterial infections, or a continued exposure to harmful and inhaled irritants. However, these causes are rare. Just make sure that you do not expose yourself unduly to toxins or other harmful substances, since they may cause croup to an extent.

Diagnosing Croup

Your doctor is able to diagnose whether you have croup or not with the help of a physical examination. Apart from the physical examination, your doctor will also listen to the sound of your cough, observe your breathing pattern, and ask you to describe the symptoms that you have been experiencing. In some cases, a doctor is able to diagnose if you have croup or not just by listening to your cough.

If your symptoms are serious and persist over time, then the doctors could also prescribe a throat examination or an X-ray to diagnose if you are suffering from other respiratory conditions that further make the condition severe.

This is why it is important that you note the symptoms as you experience them, since you can provide the doctor with all the requisite details, thus enabling your doctor to arrive at a speedy diagnosis. The important thing here for your physician is to determine if your current condition is caused by another respiratory based illness or croup. Once he has diagnosed your current condition, he can then move on to recommend a course of treatment to help treat the same.

How is croup in adults treated?

In general, croup in both children and adults is a mild condition and will disappear on its own in a few weeks or days. Some cases can still become serious and will require additional treatment. During the treatment for croup, it is not recommended to have a combination of a cough or cold medicine. These are ineffective in treating most symptoms of croup, and they can also lead to side effects that are proven to worsen the condition.

If you are experiencing these symptoms and have tried most of the cold and cough medicines with no effect, then chances are high that you are suffering from croup. It is important that you inform your doctor about all and any medication you may have taken since the onset of croup. Additionally, you need to inform your doctor about your complete medical history, including any medicines that you are sensitive to, as this can have a bearing on the course of treatment and medications prescribed.

Doctors also recommend the use of painkillers, such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen, to relieve pain and fever. For more severe cases of croup, an oral cortisone medication is often prescribed by doctors. Some patients, although rare, can have severe respiratory symptoms that require the administration of inhalation therapy in the hospital. Such therapy can provide a temporary relief from the symptoms, but it is usually followed by a return of equally severe symptoms. Hence, this method of treatment is not recommended, but it is prescribed under constant medical supervision to some patients. 

The pain killers should help to alleviate most of the pain and discomfort you may be under, but it is important that you start the process of treatment early on. Otherwise, you may be put on inhalation therapy and even be asked to stay at the hospital so that your condition can be monitored around the clock.

For bacterial croup, doctors could also recommend antibiotics to treat and provide relief from the symptoms. Other ways to provide relief from the symptoms is to drink fluids and keep well-hydrated. You should also not undertake any strenuous physical activities, since your body needs time to recover. Make sure that you stay well rested, and do not unduly stress yourself. With effective treatment, croup should disappear in a few days.

The most important key in the treatment of croup is to remain calm during an attack. Panicking and being agitated will only make the situation worse by causing further inflammation. The use of steam or a vaporizer may be recommended to relieve a patient's congestion. If the condition is not getting better with treatment, the patient should consult the doctor immediately.

While you may find some of the symptoms, including difficulty in breathing, a bit overwhelming, panicking is only going to put your body under additional stress, and this in turn will cause your croup to get worse. Get a medical consult at the earliest, talk to your doctor, and ask him to provide you with diagnosis and an effective treatment. You can try out various inhalation therapies at home, but you still need to visit your doctor for an effective treatment for croup.

How can I prevent croup?

Croup is a contagious illness that can be spread among people. You can contract the virus through close contact with infected people. The preventive measures that are used to stop the spread of influenza and the common cold are the same as those for the prevention of croup, as all these common illnesses are types of transmissible respiratory conditions. Here are a few things you can do to avoid spreading croup to others:

  • Use a handkerchief and keep your mouth covered, especially when coughing
  • Make sure that you use a hand sanitizer to sanitize your hands and to quit spreading croup to others
  • Wash all your clothes in hot water, as this can help to kill off the germs
  • Use separate utensils and wash and store them separately until your condition has resolved
  • Do not touch common use items, like the remote, fridge, etc, since others would be using the same
  • Try to maintain a healthy distance from your loved ones until your condition is all cleared up

Some of the techniques used to prevent croup are regular hand washing and keeping your hands away from your mouth or nose. Anything that came in contact with someone who is infected with croup should be considered infected and must not be handled or touched by other people. Many serious cases, although rare, are caused by conditions and illnesses such as measles. To avoid contracting such dangerous conditions, adults and children should have completed their corresponding vaccinations.

If you are displaying some of the symptoms with changes in your skin’s hue, then you need to consult your doctor right away. It is equally important to head in for a medical consult, rather than try and go for some of the OTC medications. Most antibiotics come with one side effect or the other, which is why you need to head to your physician for medical consult.

Once your doctor has confirmed croup, he can provide you with an effective treatment for the same. Bottom line, croup can disappear in a few days, but it could also be indicative of something more serious. This is why the initial diagnosis is important.

Additionally, you may want to start changing your diet to one that’s healthy. Consume foods rich in antioxidants, and this can help your body fight off infections effectively. The next time you feel you are experiencing croup, head over to your doctor's office, and with his recommendation, you should be able to prevent a recurrence of the same condition. With the right medicine, you can now be able to breath easily and even get a well-deserved good night’s sleep. Remember to be totally honest and upfront with your doctor regarding your family’s medical history, and whether or not you have a genetic predisposition to the same. An accurate diagnosis is only possible if your doctor has all the information he requires in order to be able to provide you with an effective course of treatment.