Does breathing warm mist work as an at-home remedy for croup symptoms?

Answers from Jay L. Hoecker, M.D.

Warm, humid air has long been considered a useful croup treatment if symptoms aren't severe. But there's little scientific evidence showing measurable benefits from using steam as a croup treatment. Still, exposing your child to a warm, moist environment as a croup treatment isn't likely to be harmful and may be worth a try.

The primary sign of croup — medically known as viral laryngotracheobronchitis — is a distinctive barking cough caused by inflammation around the vocal cords. Other signs and symptoms include fever and a hoarse voice.

For mild croup, use a cool-air humidifier in your child's bedroom or have your child breathe the warm, moist air in a steamy bathroom. Weather permitting, you may also wrap your child in a coat or blanket and stand in the cool night air. For severe croup — such as a barking cough accompanied by noisy, labored inspirations of breathing (stridor) — a doctor may prescribe corticosteroids, epinephrine or another medication to open your child's airways.

Nov. 23, 2010