Chest and lungs

Severe Cases of Croup: When Your Child Needs Hospital Care

​​Most cases of croup can be treated successfully at home. However, children with severe cases of croup may need to be treated in the hospital.

Call 911 or an ambulance right away if your child: 

  • Makes a whistling sound (called stridor) that gets louder with each breath.
  • Cannot speak because of a lack of breath.
  • Seems to struggle to get a breath.
  • Has a bluish color of the lips, mouth, or fingernails.
  • Drools or has trouble swallowing.

Care of Your Child at the Hospital:

At the hospital, your child’s doctor will decide the best way to treat your child. Treatments may include the following: 

  • Epinephrine. This medicine can help reduce swelling in the upper airways so that your child can breathe better. Epinephrine is given through a nebulizer. A nebulizer is a machine that turns liquid medicine into a fine mist. The mist is breathed in through a mouthpiece or face mask. Often, when this medicine is used, doctors prefer to continue to watch a child for several hours after it is given. This sometimes requires a stay in the hospital.
  • Corticosteroids. These medicines can be useful in reducing inflammation in the body. They work in 2 ways. Systemic corticosteroids must go through the body to treat the inflammation in the upper airway. Inhaled or intranasal corticosteroids go directly to where the inflammation is.
  • Oxygen. Sometimes when breathing is very difficult for a child, the body may not get enough oxygen and the work of breathing increases. Oxygen given through a mask or a small tube near the nose will make it easier to breathe.

When Can My Child Go Home?

As soon as your child’s breathing improves, usually within a few hours, he will be allowed to go home. Sometimes a child with croup will stay in the hospital overnight for observation. 

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