Pseudocroup symptoms and treatment

PseudocroupPseudocroup is an inflammation of the upper respiratory tract. The disease occurs predominantly in young children. Typical signs are a barking cough, whistling noises when breathing in and slight shortness of breath.

At a glance

– Pseudocroup is an inflammation of the upper respiratory tract. – Affected are usually young children. – Symptoms usually appear suddenly in the evening or in the middle of the night. – Typical symptoms of pseudocroup include: barking cough, whistling sounds when breathing in, hoarseness and mild shortness of breath. – The complaints usually subside by themselves. – In case of severe respiratory distress, the emergency call (112) must be made immediately.

What is pseudocroup?

Pseudocroup is a respiratory disease. It occurs mainly in young children. When a young child has a cold, the upper airways become inflamed. If the larynx is then also inflamed, we speak of pseudocroup.

Typical symptoms include a barking cough, whistling sounds when breathing in, and mild shortness of breath. The symptoms usually disappear by themselves.

The name "pseudocroup" is different from "real croup". In the case of "real croup it is namely diphtheria, a bacterial infectious disease. Furthermore, pseudocroup also describes the location of the swollen mucous membranes in the upper respiratory tract (croup).

Physicians refer to pseudocroup with the term laryngitis subglottica. This term can be translated as: Inflammation of the larynx below the vocal folds.

For more in-depth information, such as what pseudocroup is, see health information.

What are the symptoms of pseudocroup?

Pseudocroup often starts with a cold with runny nose and slight fever. Typically, the problems begin after a few days. Then usually in the evening or at night.

Typical symptoms of pseudocroup are:

– barking cough – whistling sound when inhaling – hoarseness

Shortness of breath is also one of the typical symptoms. Because the swelling constricts the larynx, children in this case breathe faster and take a deeper breath. Although most children have only mild shortness of breath, the feeling often frightens them and they start crying, which can increase the shortness of breath.

What can cause pseudocroup??

Pseudocroup is usually caused by certain cold viruses: parainfluenza viruses often cause only coughing, runny nose and hoarseness. Sometimes the mucous membrane of the larynx becomes inflamed and swollen.

How often does pseudocroup occur?

Pseudocroup often occurs in autumn or winter. Most often affected are children between 6 months and 3 years of age. About 3 out of 100 children of this age get pseudocroup per year. Adults only very rarely fall ill with pseudocroup.

What is the course of pseudocroup??

Often a child first has a cold with a cold and a slight fever. After a few days, the typical symptoms of pseudocroup may appear – usually suddenly at night. Most children have only mild symptoms that disappear by themselves within 2 days.

How is pseudocroup diagnosed?

In case of pronounced shortness of breath, it is important to immediately call the emergency doctor (112) and request medical assistance.

A warning sign of a severe course is when the skin between the ribs visibly pulls inward with each breath. The respiratory distress rarely becomes so severe that the child turns blue or is so exhausted that he or she seems absent and unresponsive.

The cause of such complaints can be, for example, that the trachea is also inflamed and constricted. A purulent inflammation of the epiglottis can also be a trigger. Laryngoscopy may then be necessary to determine this.

If a bacterial infection is suspected, sometimes a throat swab is also taken.

How to treat pseudocroup?

It is important for parents to remain as calm as possible in these situations. Parents should then reare their child, because anxiety can make the shortness of breath even worse.

Most children have only mild symptoms. Within 2 days, these have disappeared on their own. Medication is then not necessary. It is often advised to ventilate a lot in case of pseudocroup. Fresh, cool and moist air should relieve the symptoms. However, the effectiveness of these measures has not been scientifically proven.

If the symptoms affect the child very much or do not get better, a visit to the doctor is necessary. If respiratory distress is severe, the child must be hospitalized.

Usually, the doctor then administers cortisone-containing drugs for a short time. The child receives these, for example, as suppositories or tablets, and rarely also as injections or sprays.

The medication has an anti-inflammatory effect. They ensure that the mucous membranes decongest again. The affected child will then feel better again after a few hours. Side effects occur due to these short. Partial only single application in normal case hardly on.

Adrenaline is used for severe respiratory distress. The child inhales it via a nebulizer. Adrenaline causes blood vessels in the mucosa to contract. The swelling usually goes down within half an hour. Possible side effects are palpitations and increase in blood prere, but these are not dangerous.

In addition to medication, a child with severe respiratory distress is usually given oxygen via a nasal mask.

It is important to remain as calm as possible, to be there for the child and to reare him or her, so that the child's shortness of breath is not exacerbated by his or her own anxiety.


– Bjornson C, Russell K, Vandermeer B, Klassen TP, Johnson DW. Nebulized epinephrine for croup in children. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2013; (10): CD006619. Retrieved on 8.6.2020. – Gates A, Gates M, Vandermeer B, Johnson C, Hartling L, Johnson DW et al. Glucocorticoids for croup in children. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2018; (8): CD001955. Retrieved on 18.09.2020. – Johnson DW. Croup. BMJ Clin Evid 2014: pii: 0321. Called on 08.06.2020. – Lenarz T, Boenninghaus HG. Otorhinolaryngology. Springer: Berlin 2012. – Moraa I, Sturman N, McGuire T, van Driel ML. Heliox for croup in children. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2013; (12): CD006822. Retrieved 08.06.2020. – Pschyrembel. Clinical dictionary. De Gruyter: Berlin 2017. – Russell KF, Liang Y, O'Gorman K, Johnson DW, Klassen TP. Glucocorticoids for croup. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2011; (1): CD001955.

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