Acute Laryngotracheobronchitis (ALTB) is a viral infection of the throat (upper airway). The virus causes swelling of the voice box (larynx) and windpipe (trachea). The swelling narrows the airway and makes breathing hard.
Croup can get worse quickly. If your child is having problems breathing, he or she should get medical help as soon as possible. If your child has croup, you should consider sleeping overnight in the same room to observe him or her closely. If you are not able to ease your child's shortness of breath and croupy cough, call your child's doctor or seek medical attention as soon as possible.
Most children with viral croup are between the ages of three months and five years old. Croup is most likely to occur during the winter months and early spring. Symptoms are most severe in children younger than three years of age.
Croup often begins like a normal cold followed by a harsh and barking cough, described as "croupy". This often happens at night when the air is cooler. Croup from a viral infection usually lasts less than a week. Croup rarely causes any long-term complications.
Croup is a contagious disease and can be spread easily from one person to another. If possible, avoid contact with others who have colds and flu. Good personal hygiene such as frequent hand washing helps to reduce the chance of spreading the infection. Always have your child cough or sneeze into a tissue and throw it away immediately. It also helps to increase the amount of fluids your child drinks.
Viruses are the causes of most types of croup. Occasionally, bacteria or an allergic reaction may also result in similar symptoms as croup. The most common viruses are parainfluenza virus (accounting for most croup cases), adenovirus, respiratory syncytial virus, influenza and measles.
Children who were born prematurely or who have a history of breathing problems or asthma are more likely to develop severe croup and may require hospitalisation.
The doctor will examine your child to assess if the croup is serious or if there is any airway blockage or bacterial infection. Medications such as epinephrine or corticosteroids may be given to reduce swelling in the upper airways. Oxygen may also be given, and sometimes a child with croup will remain in the hospital for observation. As with most illnesses, rest and plenty of fluids are recommended.