How is Croup Diagnosed?


A pediatrician will usually perform a medical evaluation to diagnose croup and inquire after the child’s health history. They will be on the lookout for a barking cough and stridor, a high-pitched whistling sound while breathing. 

The physical exam for croup typically involves:

  • Listening to your child’s chest with a stethoscope
  • Observing your child’s breathing
  • Examining your child’s throat

In cases of persistent or more severe symptoms, your doctor may order additional tests, including:

  • A chest or neck X-ray
  • Blood test
  • A pulse oximetry test to measure the levels of oxygen in the blood

How is Croup Treated?


In some mild croup cases, symptoms can be treated at home. Urgent treatment with medications in a medical setting may be needed for more severe cases of croup.

At-home treatments

Crying and distress can cause breathing difficulties and worsen your child’s croup symptoms. Here are several home remedies for combating symptoms of the croup, including ways to keep your child calm:

  • Sit with the child in a steamed bathroom
  • Use a cool mist humidifier
  • Encourage the intake of fluids to keep them hydrated
  • Sing the child a lullaby while gently rocking them
  • Pat the child reassuringly on the back
  • Offer their favorite toy or blanket. Distractions can help regulate breathing
  • Speak in a soothing voice
  • If the child has a fever and is over six months old, you can treat it with acetaminophen or ibuprofen as needed. Consult your pediatrician about the appropriate dosage.


In severe cases of croup, your child may be prescribed certain medications, including:

  • Corticosteroid. A corticosteroid, such as dexamethasone, can be administered via injection. One dose of dexamethasone, if administered within the first 24 hours of croup onset, can be effective in reducing symptoms within hours.
  • Epinephrine can reduce swelling in a child’s airway and help restore normalized breathing. It is typically administered through a nebulizer. While fast-acting, epinephrine wears off quickly, and you child may need to stay in the emergency room to determine if a second dose is necessary



Symptoms of the croup usually last between three and five days.

A croup cough sounds like a loud, seal-like bark.

Seek immediate medical attention if your child exhibits signs of stridor or has trouble breathing, especially if the skin around their ribs and neck appears to cave in when inhaling or they develop bluish or gray discoloring around the lips or face. If your child’s symptoms persist or worsen after three to five days, take them to a doctor for medical treatment.

It is unclear why some children seem prone to croup. While most children eventually outgrow recurrent croup, evaluation by specialists may be warranted to rule out underlying medical problems or structural issues with the upper airway for children who get multiple croup episodes yearly.

One theory is that steroid levels naturally lower during the night, which can make the swelling in the child’s airways worse. Dry air from a heater can also aggravate symptoms.

Get Care

Trust NewYork-Presbyterian for Croup Treatment

The doctors at NewYork-Presbyterian understand how the symptoms of croup can be scary for both a parent and a child. Our pediatric experts can provide treatment solutions and peace of mind for mild to severe croup cases.  

If you are concerned about your child’s croup symptoms, contact the compassionate pediatric department at NewYork-Presbyterian for an appointment.