Croup is a viral infection of the upper respiratory tract which involves the larynx and trachea, both of which connect the mouth to the upper part of the lungs. This condition causes an obstruction in the airway, thus making it difficult to breathe. The most common characteristic of croup is a barking cough.
Croup is caused by a virus which also causes the common cold. The parainfluenza virus is the most common cause of croup. It can easily spread to other people through close contact. The virus may also be contracted by breathing in infected respiratory droplets in places where an infected person has been. Other children may also get the virus on contaminated toys, as the virus survives on surfaces. When a contaminated surface - such as a toy - is touched by a child who then touches his/her eyes, nose or mouth, the child may get the infection and develop croup.
Croup commonly affects children, especially those who are 1 to 3 years old. It affects boys more than girls. Some children can experience multiple attacks of croup during their childhood. After 6 years old, croup becomes uncommon because the airway is now firmer and wider, as compared to when the children were younger. Adults may have croup, but it is very rare.Adults may have croup, but it is very rare.
Croup may happen all year round, but it commonly occurs during the fall and winter months.
Types of Croup
Viral croup is the most common type of croup. It is caused by a viral infection (as the name implies) of the windpipe and voice box. Viral croup often begins as a common cold, and then it gradually turns into a barky cough at night. The child’s voice becomes hoarse, and the breathing will be noisier. The child may also develop stridor, a coarse musical sound when breathing in. Viral croup may be accompanied by a low grade fever, or a fever that can reach up to 40°C.
Spasmodic croup is the type of croup thought to be caused by an allergic reflux from the stomach. This type of croup may be frightening, as it comes on all of a sudden, particularly in the middle of the night, causing the child to gasp for breath. The child can have a hoarse voice and a stridor when breathing in. A barky cough may also be present. Unlike viral croup, children with spasmodic croup don’t have a fever. However, spasmodic croup can recur.
This type of croup is similar to asthma. It often reacts to a reflux or allergy medicines.
Croup with Stridor
Stridor is often seen in children with croup. It is common in mild cases and is often observed when a child is active or crying. However, if a child has stridor while at rest, it can be an indication of a severe croup.
Croup with stridor makes a child breathe with more effort than usual. The child may stop eating and drinking. In addition, the child may become too exhausted to cough. Lastly, the stridor may be heard more with each breath.
This type of croup can be dangerous, as it can cause too much swelling of the airway, rendering the child unable to breathe. In more severe cases, the child will not get enough oxygen into their blood. This is an emergency where the child must be brought to the hospital. Fortunately, severe cases of croup are rare.
- The types of croup are: Viral, spasmodic and croup with stridor.
- Viral croup is the most common type of croup.
- Croup with stridor can be dangerous.