Croup is caused by an acute viral infection of the upper respiratory tract. It is also called laryngotracheobronchitis since it affects the larynx, trachea, and bronchi. This infection results in inflammation, increased mucus production, and swelling of the upper airways. Although croup usually resolves on its own, between 5%-10% of children with croup will require admission to the hospital.
- Children between the ages of 6 months and 3 years of age are most likely to get croup. This common viral illness is estimated to occur annually in 3%-5% of children between the ages of 6 months and 3 years and is the most common cause of stridor (upper airway wheezing during inspiration) in this age group. Croup is rarely seen in adults because their larger breathing passages (trachea and larynx) can accommodate the inflammation without producing symptoms.
- Some children appear to be particularly prone to croup and have a number of infections. Boys are more prone than girls, with peak seasonal outbreaks in late fall and winter.
- Croup should be differentiated from more serious medical diagnoses, including acute epiglottitis, bacterial tracheitis, or an inhaled foreign body.
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