• Definition

    Croup is breathing difficulty accompanied by a "barking" cough. Croup, which is swelling around the vocal cords, is common in infants and children and can have a variety of causes.

    Alternative Names

    Viral croup; Laryngotracheobronchitis - acute; Spasmodic croup

    Causes, incidence, and risk factors

    Viral croup is the most common. Other possible causes include bacteria, allergies, and inhaled irritants. Acid reflux from the stomach can trigger croup.

    Croup is usually (75% of the time) caused by parainfluenza viruses, but RSV, measles, adenovirus, and influenza can all cause croup.

    Before the era of immunizations and antibiotics, croup was a dreaded and deadly disease, usually caused by the diphtheria bacteria. Today, most cases of croup are mild. Nevertheless, it can still be dangerous.

    Croup tends to appear in children between 3 months and 5 years old, but it can happen at any age. Some children are prone to croup and may get it several times.

    In the northern hemisphere, it is most common between October and March, but can occur at any time of the year.

    In severe cases of croup, there may also be a bacterial superinfection of the upper airway. This condition is called bacterial tracheitis and requires hospitalization and intravenous antibiotics. If the epiglottis becomes infected, the entire windpipe can swell shut, a potentially fatal condition called epiglottitis.