Viral croup: current diagnosis and treatment

Mayo Clin Proc. 1998 Nov;73(11):1102-6; discussion 1107. doi: 10.4065/73.11.1102.


Viral croup, a common illness in children, manifests with noisy, labored breathing. Parainfluenza viruses are the most common cause of croup; however, other causes including epiglottitis and bacterial tracheitis should be considered in the differential diagnosis. The diagnosis is primarily based on clinical findings; imaging studies may be useful in selected cases. Although most children recover from this self-limited illness with only minimal medical intervention, some are severely affected by laryngeal swelling and require respiratory support with analgesics, cool mist, corticosteroids, nebulized epinephrine, heliox, and, rarely, intubation. In this article, the current diagnostic and management strategies for viral croup are summarized.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Inhalation
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / therapeutic use
  • Bronchodilator Agents / therapeutic use
  • Croup / diagnosis*
  • Croup / diagnostic imaging
  • Croup / physiopathology
  • Croup / therapy*
  • Croup / virology*
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Epinephrine / therapeutic use
  • Helium / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Intubation, Intratracheal
  • Laryngoscopy
  • Oximetry
  • Oxygen / therapeutic use
  • Radiography
  • Steroids


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents
  • Bronchodilator Agents
  • Steroids
  • Helium
  • heliox
  • Oxygen
  • Epinephrine