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What causes croup?

The parainfluenza virus is a family of viruses that accounts for 75% of cases of croup. Croup symptoms often develop a few days after the start of what appears to be an upper respiratory infection (URI), such as a cold. Most cases are caused by human parainfluenza viruses types I and II. However, other viruses, such as influenza viruses types A and B, respiratory

syncytial virus (RSV), and measles, can also cause croup. As children grow older and structures in the throat and breathing tubes mature, they are less susceptible to croup.

Viral croup is the most common. Other possible causes include bacteria, allergies, and inhaled irritants. Acid reflux from the stomach can trigger croup. Croup is usually (75 percent of the time) caused by parainfluenza viruses, but RSV, measles, adenovirus, andinfluenzacan all cause croup. Before the era of immunizations and antibiotics, croup was a dreaded and deadly disease, usually caused by the diphtheria bacteria. Today, most cases of croup are mild. Nevertheless, it can still be dangerous. Croup tends to appear in children between 3 months and 5 years old, but it can happen at any age. Some children are prone to croup and may get it several times.

In the Northern hemisphere, it is most common between October and March, but can occur at any time of the year. In severe cases of croup, there may also be a bacterial super-infection of the upper airway. This condition is called bacterial tracheitis and requires hospitalization and intravenous antibiotics. If the epiglottis becomes infected, the entire windpipe can swell shut, a potentially fatal condition called epiglottitis.

More information on croup

What is croup? - Croup is breathing difficulty accompanied by a barking cough. Croup is usually caused by the parainfluenza virus.
What causes croup? - Viral croup is the most common. Other possible causes include bacteria, allergies, and inhaled irritants.
What're the symptoms of croup? - Croup features a cough that sounds like a seal barking. Croup has a characteristic cough that sounds like a barking seal.
What're the complications of croup? - Extremely severe croup can result in life-threatening swelling of the airway. Respiratory failure may happen on child.
How is croup diagnosed? - Children with croup are usually diagnosed based on the parent's description of the symptoms and a physical exam.
What's the treatment for croup? - Most cases of croup can be safely managed at home. Steroid medicines are effective at promptly relieving the symptoms of croup.
How to prevent croup? - Frequent hand washing and avoiding contact with others with respiratory infections are good ways to prevent colds and croup.
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All information is intended for reference only. Please consult your physician for accurate medical advices and treatment. Copyright 2005,, all rights reserved. Last update: July 18, 2005