Skip to content

This information was reviewed and approved by Franziksa J. Rosser, MD, MPH (12/1/2016).

Treatment of Croup at Home

In most cases, croup can be treated at home.

Treatment with cool mist may help symptoms. Cool mist therapy may be delivered by placing a vaporizer or humidifier in the child’s bedroom. If you use a vaporizer or humidifier, remember to clean it following the manufacturer’s instructions. Another option may be to run the shower or tub water in the bathroom with the door closed for fifteen minutes or so. Then sit in the bathroom with your child. These techniques create an environment high in humidity to help symptoms.

In addition to cool mist therapy, the child should receive adequate rest and drink plenty of fluids. Because crying can increase croup symptoms, care should be taken to comfort and soothe the child.

Finally, it is very important to closely monitor the child with croup. Talk with your doctor if your child has symptoms of croup to see if your child should be seen. Parents should be aware of symptoms of worsening croup.


Treatment of Croup at the Doctor’s Office or Hospital

There are a number of medicines that may be used when a child is seen in the doctor’s office or hospital. They include:

  • Corticosteroids can decrease swelling in the throat and windpipe to improve symptoms of croup. Corticosteroids may be given as a pill, liquid or as a shot. They may also be given as an inhaled treatment.

  • Racemic epinephrine can also decrease swelling briefly. Racemic epinephrine is given in an inhaled treatment.

  • Antibiotics (Used only when concerned about bacterial infections). Antibiotics may not be used, because croup is often a viral infection. If your doctor is concerned about a bacterial cause, antibiotics may be prescribed.

  • Tamiflu (Oseltamivir): Used for influenza (suspected if child has fever and cough). Influenza may be suspected if it is present in the community.

In addition to medicines, your child can be monitored closely in the doctor's office or the hospital. Doctors and nurses can ensure the child is breathing well and receiving enough oxygen and fluids. This is important in more severe cases of croup.

The HIB vaccine is given routinely. This vaccine is helpful in preventing a number of illnesses. One illness is epiglottis, which is a severe, often lethal form of croup. Inform your doctor if your child has not received this vaccine and has symptoms like those described above.


Danger Signs

These could indicate epiglottitis or bacterial tracheitis, true medical emergencies, or impending respiratory failure or a combination of these. Any of these complications requires immediate medical evaluation and may require treatment by a doctor skilled in pediatric intubation (that is, a pediatric anesthesiologist, ENT specialist or pulmonologist), preferably in an experienced pediatric emergency center.

  • Very high fever (103-104 degrees F or higher)
  • Drooling (unable to swallow)
  • Extremely labored breathing
  • Cyanosis (blue color) or pallor
  • Lethargy or loss of consciousness.


National Jewish Health and Croup

National Jewish Health is a recognized leader in the care and treatment of children with respiratory illnesses. The doctors and nurses at National Jewish Health realize that croup can be frightening for the entire family and have different levels of care that can help you manage this illness. Nurses at LUNG LINE®, 1.800.222.LUNG can answer your questions about croup and other respiratory illnesses.

For more than 100 years, National Jewish Health has been committed to finding new treatments and cures for diseases. Search our clinical trials.