Croup in Adults: Symptoms, Causes, Treatments, and Prevention

Croup in adults

Did you ever notice a barking sound in case of a cough? That barking sound is known as croup. Croup is an infection that affects the windpipe and voice box. Croup in adults is more in the upper respiratory system. Breathing problems and barking cough are common signs of croup.

Adult croup is rare and not easily diagnosed. Even though it is rare, you should not ignore it. Croup can turn severe and produce chronic breathing difficulties and require emergency attention until symptoms improve.

It is mild in the case of children, and children often recover from it quickly. This article mentions the definition of croup, common symptoms, causes, treatments, and prevention tips.

What is Croup?

Croup in adults is also known as laryngotracheobronchitis. It is a disease that affects the larynx, lungs, and windpipe. These organs get inflamed and produce a harsh coughing sound.

It is more common in children aged six months to three years. But can adults get croup? A barking cough in adults is rare. In adults, it affects the upper-airway respiratory system and causes a cough, severe pain in the chest and breathing problems.

Symptoms of Croup in Adults

Now we know “what is croup in adults,” let us see the symptoms of croup in adults. The initial symptoms of croup in adults are similar to that of a cold. The symptoms include a runny nose, fever, and cough.

For the first two to four days the symptoms are mild, and later the person experiences harsh coughing fits, chest pain, low-grade fever, and hoarseness of voice.

The swelling and inflammation of the vocal cords make a cough sound like a barking seal. Regardless of the inflammation, swallowing is not a problem.

Other symptoms of croup in adults are dyspnea and high-pitch sounds while breathing (1).

There are other symptoms which include rashes on the skin. Rashes appear in the later stages of croup. Pus and exudate can also be present. These skin conditions show up due to the inflammation within the body.

A cough worsens at night because of the inflamed airways. Make an appointment with your doctor to avoid seeking emergency medical care in the middle of the night. In the worst case, a person suffering from croup may need to be hospitalized and require aggressive treatment.

What Causes Croup in Adults?

The parainfluenza virus triggers a croup cough in adults. In adults, it is seen as part of a common cold. A croup cough is a viral infection which can spread through sneezing and coughing.

Airborne droplets of the croup virus are potent even if they are on surfaces like desk or tables.

Bacterial strains can cause croup in adults, but such cases are rare.

Treatment Options for Adult Croup

Most cases of croup in adults are mild, yet some cases require medical attention. Here are some treatment tips for croup:

  • Do not panic during coughing episodes. Panic stimulates the stress hormones and will make the cough worse.
  • To relieve congestion, create steam from a hot shower or use a vaporizer. The steam can decrease a cough that comes from inflammation. Croup cough responds more to cool steam from a vaporizer than hot steam due to a narrowed windpipe.
  • Keep yourself hydrated and take enough rest. Drink plenty of fresh juices and water.
  • Drinking warm liquids helps soothe inflammation and decrease the cough. Warm liquids include teas and broths. Enhance the effectiveness of teas by adding a bit of honey and lemon.
  • Over the counter medicines can work to treat inflammation and fever. Ibuprofen is a common medicine to treat inflammation, while Tylenol is recommended for fever. But consult your doctor before taking these medicines.
  • Consult a medical professional for tips on how to cope with croup.

Seek immediate medical attention in case you experience extreme fatigue, expelling of drool, skin turning blue, or severe difficulty with breathing.

How to Prevent Croup in Adults?

A croup cough is contagious like other viral infections. There is a risk of catching croup from other infected individuals.

Preventive measures for croup are same as those for cold or flu as these are also transmissible respiratory infections. Here are some tips to avoid croup in adults:

  • Regularly washing hands as well as keeping fingers and hands away from nose and mouth is the most important prevention measures. Others include covering mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing. This step is especially important when handling infants.
  • Wipe down surfaces with a disinfectant wipe or other cleaning product.
  • Avoid sharing personal items when infected with croup.
  • Stop smoking and avoid being exposed to tobacco smoke or other irritants.
  • Throw away used tissues immediately. Tissues used in croup may get infected and transfer the virus.

Croup in adults is rare, symptoms and complications are worse than children. You can take preventive measures such as washing hands, taking steam, and rest to treat mild cases of croup.

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Irene Entila

Irene is a health and fitness consultant based out of Albuquerque, NM. She was a personal trainer during the years of 2010-2013. She holds a Bachelors of Liberal Arts with a focus on creative writing from The Evergreen State College. She obtained her personal trainer license through Seattle Central College in 2010. Irene has been an athlete since childhood. She currently train and compete in ultra-marathon running and jiu jitsu. She started health writing in 2009 as a hobby through her personal blog. She believes that people can seek help from a trainer or trained profession to reach fitness and health goals. Though, people can learn a lot about them and promote self-sufficiency if they had affordable resources. By 2010, Irene started contributing to several health websites while completing her personal trainer certification and training for marathons. She saw how certain health variables affected her training and wanted to share this information with the public. Since then, Irene has written various articles about health and fitness featured on different magazines.