Self-management

Lifestyle and home remedies

Croup often runs its course within three to five days. In the meantime, keep your child comfortable with a few simple measures:

  • Stay calm. Comfort or distract your child — cuddle, read a book or play a quiet game. Crying makes breathing more difficult.
  • Moisten the air. Although there's no evidence of benefit from this practice, many parents believe that humid air helps a child's breathing. You can use a humidifier or sit with the child in a bathroom filled with steam generated by running hot water from the shower.
  • Hold your child in a comfortable upright position. Hold your child on your lap, or place your child in a favorite chair or infant seat. Sitting upright may make breathing easier.
  • Offer fluids. For babies, water, breast milk or formula is fine. For older children, soup or frozen fruit pops may be soothing.
  • Encourage rest. Sleep can help your child fight the infection.
  • Try a fever reducer. If your child has a fever, over-the-counter medicines, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol, others), may help.
  • Skip the cold medicines. Over-the-counter cold preparations aren't recommended for children younger than age 2. Plus nonprescription cough medicines won't help croup.

Your child's cough may improve during the day, but don't be surprised if it returns at night. You may want to sleep near your child or even in the same room so that you can take quick action if your child's symptoms become severe.

Prevention

To prevent croup, take the same steps you use to prevent colds and flu. Frequent hand-washing is the most important. Also keep your child away from anyone who's sick, and encourage your child to cough or sneeze into his or her elbow.

To stave off more-serious infections, keep your child's vaccinations current. The diphtheria and Haemophilus influenza type b vaccines offer protection from some of the rarest — but most dangerous — upper airway infections. There isn't a vaccine yet that protects against parainfluenza viruses.