Parenting Challenge

when your child has recurrent croup

when your child has recurrent croup

Author: Meredith Taylor
Date: August 25, 2023

When my daughter Summer (now 4 years) was 27 months old, she had her first bout of croup. I was out of town and my husband had to take her to the ER in the middle of the night. In total, she has had 10 bouts of croup and we have had to take her to the hospital on two different occasions. Recurrent croup is when it happens more than twice in a year. Lots of kids have croup and it isn't always serious or requires an ER visit. But it can be very scary to hear the labored breathing, especially in the middle of the night.

Croup is an infection in the vocal cords and trachea, and it happens in kids because the shape of their windpipe at their size. My daughter would get a normal cold that would turn into croup. She had a low, barking cough and stridor, which is a vibrating raspy sound when she breathed. It happens mostly at night so we would often wake up to the sound of her troubled breathing and crying. It also often came with a fever.

The biggest reality is the fact that kids just need to outgrow this issue. As they get older, the shape of their windpipes changes and they won’t get croup anymore. But man, in the meantime, it was such a pain. We kept hoping each time would be the last time. Finally now at age 4, we think she has outgrown it (fingers crossed!), so a lot of this is just being patient until they grow out of it.

In the meantime, we had multiple follow-ups with her doctor and the ENT specialists. We thought about doing a scope (putting a camera down her throat, requiring putting her under anesthesia), but ultimately decided it wasn’t worth it for us.

Having a nebulizer at home made the biggest difference. It meant we didn’t have to go to the ER every time croup struck. At first, she was afraid of the nebulizer and would fight us because it covered her face and was very loud. We had to make it feel less scary and we always put on a favorite TV show to distract her.

Steps to take when your child has recurrent croup:

Know the signs and when to take your child to the hospital

We did a lot of Googling to know when to take her. When in doubt, we took her and I never regretted it. In fact, after a night when I didn't take her in, I played a video of her breathing for a doctor at a follow-up appointment and upoin hearing it, he said, "Yeah, you probably should have gone in." So when in doubt and when breathing is very constricted, go to the ER.

Follow your doctors’ treatment plan

After the ER visits, we were encouraged to set up follow-ups with our pediatrician and from there, an ENT specialist. We were prescribed an at-home nebulizer, which cut down on the ER visits because we could treat her with a steroid at home with the nebulizer.

Try at-home remedies for croup

There are lots of them. None of them were super effective for us, but they might be for you. They included: sitting the child upright (this helped a little bit…until she fell asleep and slid down again); running the shower with steam to break up the cough; going outside and/or doing a late-night drive to shock the system with cold fresh air.

Advice I would give another parent in this situation

Take videos with good audio of the breathing issues

It is helpful for doctors at the hospital and at follow-up appointments to hear how severe it was at its height.

Invest in the at-home nebulizer

And be sure to bring it with you when you travel. It’s a pain to pack but you don’t want to be without it the one night you need it.

Make sure you get enough rest and recovery after a night spent awake

The worst thing about croup is that it strikes in the middle of the night so my husband and I spent many a morning bleary-eyed. Take the nap you need the next day!

About the Author

Meredith Taylor resides in Chicago, IL with her two children, Summer (4) and Tierney (2).

My favorite thing about being a mom: Smelling my girls' hair, snuggling, and hugging. I hope they never stop falling asleep in my arms.


I mostly relied on the ER team and my pediatrician for info.

I was frustrated that there wasn’t a resource that could tell me when she would outgrow it.


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