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Croup Infection in Adults

Croup is an inflammation of the larynx and trachea. It’s mostly seen in young children, but we are going to focus on croup in adults. Barking coughs, varying degrees of airway obstruction, and hoarseness are the most common symptoms. A range of infectious conditions can lead to croup. Moreover, it is also known as laryngotracheobronchitis. The barking cough that is characteristic of croup results from swelling and inflammation around the vocal chords and windpipe. Symptoms normally improve within a few days, but hospitalization may be needed in severe cases. Here is more on croup in adults.


Symptoms of croup may include:

  • a loud, barking cough that gets worse at night
  • labored, noisy breathing
  • high fever
  • hoarse voice
  • agitation
  • fatigue

These symptoms usually last about three to five days. The most telltale signs of croup are a cough that sounds like a barking seal and a high-pitched, whistling sound when you take a breath. Make sure to see your doctor if you have any of these signature signs of the illness. Also, symptoms are usually worse in adults than in children. A 2000 study looked at 11 cases of adult croup and compared them to 43 cases of child croup. Researchers found upper respiratory tract symptoms and noisy breathing were more common in adults.

What Causes Croup?

Croup is most commonly caused by a viral respiratory infection that is easily passed among children. Common viral causes include parainfluenza, influenza, adenovirus, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), and rhinovirus. Prior to the vaccine era, diphtheria caused most cases of croup and was referred to as membranous croup. Fortunately, vaccination against diphtheria has made it an exceedingly rare disease nowadays.

How common is Croup?

Croup is common in young children, especially between the ages of 6 months and 3 years. Some children might have two or more bouts of croup in their childhood. The viral infection can pass from person to person. That is especially the case if there is close contact. Croup often occurs in outbreaks or epidemics in the winter. Croup is uncommon after the age of 6 years. Older children can get the same viruses but the breathing tube becomes wider and stronger so the virus doesn't usually cause croup. However, teenagers and, very rarely, adults can get croup and can be as serious as in children.

How is croup treated?

Treatment can usually be done at home. Your healthcare provider may recommend some treatment options of the following:

  • Medicines, such as acetaminophen, steroids, and NSAIDs, may help with a fever. Ask your healthcare provider what cough medicine may help with your cough.
  • Rest and keep calm as much as possible. The stress hormones can make your cough worse.
  • Sit in a steam-filled bathroom. Turn the shower on. Close the door and sit in the bathroom for about 15 to 20 minutes.
  • Drink warm liquids. Warm liquids will soothe your throat and help with your cough.

Home remedies

Some home remedies that may help speed up your recovery include the following:

  • Use a humidifier. This device can help moisten the air, which could make breathing easier. Get a humidifier today.
  • Drink lots of fluids. Staying hydrated is important when you have croup.
  • Rest. Getting enough sleep can help your body fight off the virus.
  • Stay in an upright position. Sitting upright can help your symptoms. Propping extra pillows under your head may also help you to sleep better.
  • Use pain relievers. Acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil), or other pain medicines can lower your fever and reduce your pain.

Croup in adults is unusual, but possible. If you develop croup as an adult, you might experience worse symptoms and need more aggressive treatment. Make sure to see your doctor if you think you might have this infection. Naturally, catching it early could lead to a much better outcome.