KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Croup is one of the most common respiratory illnesses sending young kids to the hospital. Croup is marked by a distinctive bark-like cough that won’t go away. It is most dangerous for babies and toddlers.

The viral infection occurs in the upper airway, around vocal cords and windpipe. The bark-like cough is caused by swelling in the area. Children under the age of 5 get it most often because their airways are smaller.

Signs/symptoms of croup

  • May have stuffy or runny nose and fever accompany any of the following
  • Barking cough
  • High-pitched whistling sound when breathing in
  • Struggling to breath

Croup spreads through coughing, sneezing and respiratory secretions. Children with croup should be considered contagious for about three days after the illness begins or until the fever is gone.

Treatment

If symptoms are mild, a cool-mist humidifier may help. You can also run a hot shower to create a steam-filled bathroom to sit in for 20 minutes.

If your child is struggling to breathe, has pale or bluish color around mouth, has trouble swallowing or you can see your child’s skin around their ribs pulling in with they are gasping for breath, you should take them to the emergency room.