Croup is a condition that causes swelling around the vocal chords, resulting in a wheezing voice and numerous other symptoms. This is usually caused by an infection of the upper airway, with the most common cause being a viral infection called parainfluenza virus. This virus is airborne can spread via tiny droplets of moisture in the air. Likewise, if a child should touch a surface that has been coughed on, and then touch their face, this can also spread the disease.
This condition is normally not serious, and in most cases it can be treated at home and will be self-limiting. However, it is slightly more common in young children and can sometimes be alarming to witness. Most often, it will affect children between 6 months and 3 years of age.
In some rare cases, croup may lead to more serious symptoms that make it hard for them to breathe, or that suggest a more serious complication.
In this post, we will examine some of the most common symptoms that you need to look out for. This will help you to spot the difference between croup and other more serious conditions, and help you know when to see a doctor.
The most common symptom of croup is of course the cough. In fact, the condition is sometimes called “croup cough.” This cough is very distinctive and is caused specifically by the swelling of the vocal chords and the resulting narrowing of the airway. This can then result in a cough that sounds like a “barking seal cough.” This has a harsh, raspy, and dry sound that is technically called “stridor.”
The reason that croup is more commonly diagnosed in young children under three, is that they have much small vocal chords and airpipes. This means that a smaller amount of swelling is necessary in order for them to have a noticeably altered breathing pattern and cough.
Usually, the cough is not one of the first symptoms that is noticed. Rather, the cough appears a few days later (about 3 days into the illness). It will then typically last for around 4-7 days.