Revision as of 00:00, 28 March 2019 by SLuckettG (talk | contribs) (Background)


  • Also known as laryngotracheobronchitis
  • Typically affects ages 6 mo-3 yr (peak in 2nd year)
    • May affect older children
    • Most common in fall & winter
  • Etiology
    • Parainfluenza (50% - 75%)
    • Influenza A and B (usually more severe clinical picture)
  • RSV
  • Spasmodic croup
    • Sudden onset of barking cough/stridor
    • No viral prodrome, unlike typical croup
    • Difficult to differentiate from typical croup
  • Must rule out foreign body

Clinical Features

  • 1-2 day of URI followed by barking cough and stridor
  • Low-grade fever
  • NO drooling or dysphagia
  • Duration = 3-7d, most severe on days 3-4

Differential Diagnosis

Pediatric stridor


  • Laryngotracheomalacia
    • Accounts for 60%
    • Usually exacerbated by viral URI
    • Dx w/ flexible fiberoptic laryngoscopy
  • Vocal cord paralysis
    • Stridor associated w/ feeding problems, hoarse voice, weak and/or changing cry
    • May have cyanosis or apnea if bilateral (less common)
  • Subglottic stenosis
    • Congenital vs 2/2 prolonged intubation in premies
  • Airway hemangioma
    • Usually regresses by age 5
    • Associated w/ skin hemangiomas in beard distribution
  • Vascular ring/sling


  • Croup
    • viral laryngotracheobronchitis
    • 6 mo- 3 yr, peaks at 2 yrs
    • Most severe on 3rd-4th day of illness
    • Steeple sign not reliable- diagnose clinically
  • Epiglottitis
    • H flu type B
      • Have higher suspicion in unvaccinated children
    • Rapid onset sore throat, fever, drooling
    • Difficult airway- call anesthesia/ ENT early
  • Bacterial tracheitis
    • Rare but causes life-threatening obstruction
    • Sx of croup + toxic-appearing = bacterial tracheitis
  • Foreign body (sudden onset)
    • Marked variation in quality or pattern of stridor
  • Retropharyngeal abscess
    • Fever, neck pain, dysphagia, muffled voice, drooling, neck stiffness/torticollis/extension



  • Consider CXR if concerned about alternative diagnosis
    • Steeple sign on AP (not Sp, not Sn)
  • Consider nasal washings for RSV, parainfluenza, influenza serologies.


  • Often a clinical diagnosis

Westley Croup Score[1][2]

Helps to stratify patients into mild moderate and severe and guide treatment

Parameter 0 Point 1 Point 2 Points 3 Points
Inspiratory stridor None When agitated On/off at rest Continuous at rest
Retractions None Mild Moderate Severe
Air Entry Normal Decreased Mod decreased Severely decreased
Cyanosis None When crying At rest
Alertness Alert Restless, anxious Depressed


  • <2 Very mild
  • 2-9 Mild to moderately severe
  • >9 Severe croup


  1. Cool mist
    • May provide symptomatic treatment for patients with ongoing stridor[3]
  2. Steroids (first line treatment)
    • Dexamethasone 0.15-0.6mg/kg PO/IM (max 10mg)[4][5]
    • No differences between intramuscular and oral dexamethasone [6]
    • Onset 6 hrs, duration 72 hrs
  3. Epinephrine (nebulized)
    • Use in moderate to severe cases based on the croup scores. Use either Racemic or Standard Epinephrine[7]
    • Symptomatic relief via local vasoconstriction
    • Racemic Epi (2.25%): 0.05 mL per kg (maximal dose: 0.5 mL) of racemic epinephrine 2.25% [8]
    • Epinephrine(1:1,000): 0.5 mL per kg (maximal dose: 5 mL) via nebulizer
    • Onset up to 30 min, duration 2 hrs
    • Watch child 2-3 hrs after administration to ensure no return of stridor at rest
  4. Intubation
    • Rarely needed but if so, use tube that is one half size smaller than normal for age/size of patient


  • Do NOT give albuterol (may worsen edema (vasodilation))

No Evidence

  • Heliox
    • Mixture of helium and oxygen (with not less than 20% oxygen)
    • Low viscosity and low specific gravity facilitates laminar airflow through the respiratory tract.
    • Currently there is a lack of evidence to establish the effect of heliox inhalation in the treatment of croup in children[9]


Consider Discharge if

  • 3hr since last epinephrine
  • Able to tolerate PO
  • Nontoxic appearance


  • Persistent respiratory symptoms/signs
  • ≥2 treatments with epinephrine


See Also

External Links


  1. Westley CR, et al. Nebulized racemic epinephrine by IPPB for the treatment of croup: a double-blind study. Am J Dis Child. 1978; 132(5):484-487.
  2. Klassen TP, et al. Croup. A current perspective. Pediatr Clin North Am. 1999; 46(6):1167–1178.
  3. Scolnik D, Coates AL, Stephens D, Da Silva Z, Lavine E, Schuh S. Controlled delivery of high vs low humidity vs mist therapy for croup in emergency departments. JAMA. 2006;295(11):1274–1280
  4. Geelhoed GC, Macdonald WB. Oral dexamethasone in the treatment of croup: 0.15mg/kg versus 0.3mg/kg versus 0.6mg/kg. Pediatr Pulmonol. 1995;20(6):362–368.
  5. Bjornson, C.L., Klassen, T.P., Williamson, J., Brant, R., Mitton, C., Plint, A., Bulloch, B., Evered, L. and Johnson, D.W. (2004) ‘A Randomized trial of a single dose of oral dexamethasone for mild Croup’, New England Journal of Medicine, 351(13), pp. 1306–1313.
  6. Donaldson D, Intramuscular versus oral dexamethasone for the treatment of moderate-to-severe croup: a randomized, double-blind trial. Acad Emerg Med. 2003 Jan;10(1):16-21.
  7. Adair JC, Ring WH, Jordan WS, Elwyn RA. Ten-year experience with IPPB in the treatment of acute laryngotracheobronchitis. Anesth Analg. 1971;50(4):649–55
  8. Westley CR, Cotton EK, Brooks JG. Nebulized racemic epinephrine by IPPB for the treatment of croup: a double-blind study. Am J Dis Child. 1978;132(5):484–487
  9. Moraa I, Sturman N, McGuire T, van Driel ML., Heliox for croup in children., Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2013 Dec 7;12:CD00682