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Pseudocroup (Latin name)

By Bjarne Lühr Hansen PhD, MD and Philipp Skafte-Holm MD, Mentor Institute

Croup is indicated by hoarseness and a dry barking cough that sounds just like a sea lion. A common illness with children less than 7 years old. The cough has usually passed within 24 hours. Some children have difficulty breathing. If your child has difficulty breathing, you should call the doctor immediately.

Croup is a common illness. 15 % of all children will get the illness before they reach the age of 7. De illness mainly affects children between 2-3 years of age.

Croup is most common during autumn and winter. A virus causes it. The infection is located in the trachea and causes a swelling of the vocal cords. The swelling gives the child hoarseness and the characteristic cough that sounds like a sea lion.

Croup can start as a common cold that after 1 day is replaced by the typical sea lion-cough and difficulties with breathing and fever. With other children, the symptom starts with no sign of cold but a sudden barking sea lion-cough and difficulties in breathing. Typically, the cough worsens and the child has difficulty breathing, when you lay the child down. It is due to increased swelling of the vocal cords, when the child lies down.

The illness has a tendency to return with future colds. Every third child will have several cases of croup.

Normally the illness is benign and passes on its own. With 3 out of 4 children, the condition will improve within 24 hours. With some – especially children under the age of four – croup can develop so that the child will have difficulty breathing. In these cases, the child must be treated at a hospital. Approx. every tenth child with croup is hospitalized for treatment.

The younger the child the more specific are the nuisances. With small children, there is less space in the windpipe and even a small swelling around the vocal cords will cause difficulty with breathing. When the child is 5 years old, there will be more space in the windpipes and the swelling will rarely give any difficulty with breathing.

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The illness is airborne when coughing and sneezing. Only few children exposed to the infection actually get croup. Therefore, the illness is not very contagious.

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The child must stay at home until the temperature is normal and the child can participate in the usual activities without special care.


You can treat croup that involves difficulty with breathing with adrenocortical hormone. This treatment is very efficient. Penicillin or other antibiotics have no effect on croup.

What can you do?

You can ease the croup and improve the breathing by putting the child in an upright position. When the child sits up the swelling in the windpipe decreases within a couple of hours and the cough deteriorates. You should consider cold air useful. Take the child outdoors or in front of an open window. Hot steam also soothes and can be obtained by leaving the hot water on in the bathroom.

Contact the doctor tomorrow

If the child still coughs and has a fever after two days.

Contact the doctor immediately

If the child has difficulties when breathing. If the child’s lips turn blue. If the child goes limp.