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Childhood Viruses of Winter: Croup

Board Certified Pediatric Emergency Physician Dr. Ronnie Waldrop and Erin Rovelli, RN serve patients at the Children’s Emergency Room at Inova Loudoun Hospital – Loudoun County’s only emergency facility solely dedicated to caring for children and adolescents.

As a parent or caregiver, odds are high that you’re familiar with runny noses and stomach aches. Indeed, most children wind up with at least one viral infection during the winter season.

This month, we’re taking a closer look at 5 common winter viruses in children. Here’s your guide to identifying and treating croup.

What is Croup?

Like respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), croup is a common viral illness that affects the upper airway. It typically affects children under 5, peaking around age 2.

Croup usually begins as a mild cold with runny nose and cough, and symptoms tend to worsen at night. Often the child will develop a loud, distinctive cough that sounds almost like a seal barking. Other symptoms may include a hoarse voice, fever and noisy or high-pitched breathing (known as stridor) that is particularly noticeable when child is upset or active.

Diagnosing and Treating Croup

In most children, croup goes away on its own. Sitting in a steamy shower or bundling your child up and taking him or her outside to breathe in the moist, cool air can help to alleviate discomfort and symptoms.

Antibiotics are not helpful for treating illnesses caused by viruses, including croup.

If the barky cough persists and your child is still uncomfortable, call your doctor for advice. Your physician will diagnose croup through a physical examination and medical history intake.

If you notice persistent noisy breathing or difficulty breathing that causes large movements of the chest wall, take your child to the emergency room. The doctor may choose to treat your child with medications administered through a nebulizer, a machine that turns the medications into a mist inhaled into the lungs. In severe cases, a child may be admitted to the hospital until he or she is breathing easily again.

When Can My Child Return to School?

Croup usually resolves in 3 to 7 days, but the virus that causes croup may continue to linger. Your child may return to school as long as they are fever-free for at least 24 hours.

Use our Inova physician search to find a doctor near you.

 

 

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