Colds and Croup

Posted on: June 4th, 2011
by Ryan McElroy, MD

Dr. McElroy here.


So, I got a cold last weekend (I knew it was a cold instead of allergies because my throat and nasal passages actually started getting sore, instead of just congested). I got the first symptoms on day one, more nasally congested on day two, then the cough started on day three. I thought I had a fever a few times, but my trusty thermometer told me otherwise. This is my usual upper respiratory infection course.


However, on day 4 of my illness, I started losing my voice! In fact, it started on the day I gave the interview on TV for the Safe Sleep policy at Presby. (Look closely at the video – I look a little spacey and tired when I’m talking – my fever had just broken and I was sweating like crazy!) By that afternoon my voice was completely gone, and it didn’t return until this morning. Some of my patients, families, and co-workers got to poke fun at me for the past two days.


As I was going through this, I remembered my typical discussion with parents about upper respiratory infections and kids with croup. Croup is a great word: it describes the type of cough a child gets when the vocal cords become inflamed, usually described as “barky” or “hoarse.” The cough is always worse at night, and is sometimes accompanied by a harsh noise while breathing called stridor when the vocal cords are very inflamed. These noises occur because the opening in the voice box, or larynx, is narrowed due to the swelling of the inflamed vocal cords, which is typically an extension of the inflammation caused by the same viral infection that causes all those other cold symptoms (runny nose, sore throat, cough, etc.). In adults the vocal cords’ inflammation is more commonly manifested by a hoarse or “lost” voice – this is laryngitis (literally, “inflammation of the larynx”). In kids, because they cough more, that same inflammation is manifested by that harsh barky cough – or croup. (I love that word because it’s a great example of onomonopia, or when the word sounds like the thing it describes. Say “croup” in a harsh voice, and you’ll sound like a kid with it!)


We have a few handouts on colds and croup on the Forms and Resources section of our website – they’re a good read or review.


Stay well!


Comments are closed.