Croup is a highly contagious viral infection of the larynx, windpipe, and bronchial tubes. As these important airways narrow from inflammation and mucus buildup, the affected child finds it difficult to breathe. Since the larynx, or voice box, is affected, the cough caused by croup has a forced, barking sound that has been compared to the barking of a seal.

The condition, which strikes boys more than girls, usually occurs in children between the ages of three months and five years. Croup usually lasts for five or six days.

Signs and Symptoms

  • A loud, barking cough in a child
  • Labored breathing, especially when inhaling
  • Hoarseness
  • Wheezing or whistling sound while breathing
  • Mucus in the airways
  • Cold symptoms

Conventional Medical Treatment

Following a doctor's diagnosis, most cases of croup can be treated at home with measures similar to those used to treat the common cold. Keeping the environment warm and humid (with a humidifier or vaporizer) is important to make the child comfortable and to loosen phlegm that is trapped in the airways. During an attack of croup, it can help to sit with a child in a bathroom with the door closed and run the shower at full blast with very hot water to create a "roomsized" vaporizer. Drinking large amounts of clear, warm liquids-such as sodium-free broths, warmed fruit juice, and herbal teas-is another way to keep phlegm loose.

For someone suffering from croup, sitting is usually a more comfortable position than laying down, and breathing is easier when the child is calm rather than agitated or crying. As with any respiratory ailment, children with croup must be protected from strong chemical fumes, cigarette smoke, and exhaust.

If your child's croup hasn't disappeared in six days, or if he is drooling, has difficulty swallowing or bending his neck forward, exhibits a high-pitched squeak when inhaling, has bluish-colored lips, or has a heart rate that exceeds 160 beats per minute, contact your doctor or go to a hospital emergency room immediately.

Complementary and Alternative Treatments

Nutrition and Supplementation

Warm chicken broth simmered with garlic, thyme, and oregano can help soothe the throat and fight infection. Help thin mucus by drinking plenty of fluids, especially herbal teas and steam-distilled water.

Nutritionists recommend the following supplements for treating croup (talk to your health practitioner about specific dosages):

  • vitamin C (dosage varies according to age of child)-boosts the immune system
  • zinc and vitamin C lozenges (dosage varies according to age of child)-promotes immune function
  • vitamin A (2000 IU)-heals mucous membranes
  • vitamin E (dosage varies according to age of child)-oxygenates cells
  • N-acetyl cysteine (200 mg)-aids in breaking down mucous

(Use supplements until symptoms subside. If symptoms persist, seek the advice of your healthcare provider.)


Croup may respond to homeopathic treatment. However, the selection of a remedy-more than one is available depends on your child's symptoms and the stage of the condition. Don't try treating this disorder yourself. Seek advice from a homeopathic professional.

Consult your doctor if the cough worsens or your child appears to have trouble breathing.

Traditional Chinese Medicine

Acupuncture Acupuncture can be used to open any blockages in the lung meridians and quiet coughing spasms. The practitioner works on acupoints relating to the lungs and associated organs, such as the heart, the bronchial tubes, and the adrenal glands. Acupuncture can also help calm an anxious child and promote sleep.

Acupressure Although acupressure cannot cure croup, pressing on the Lung 5 acupoint (located near the right elbow) can help control coughing spasms.

Chinese Herbal Therapy Herbal cough medicines are available that may help soothe a crouprelated cough.

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