How To Tell The Difference Between COVID And Croup

In addition to the host of other symptoms presented by COVID-19, children who are affected by the virus have recently been developing the characteristic barking cough usually associated with croup (via Scientific American). According to a 2022 report published in Pediatrics, this may be in part related to the Omicron variant, which first appeared in late 2021. The report noted that doctors at Boston Children's Hospital found that 81% of the children who presented both COVID-19 and croup symptoms did so during the Omicron surge.

A respiratory condition marked by hoarseness and a distinctive cough, croup is often triggered by a virus (via Contemporary Pediatrics). The most common culprits are the flu, rhinovirus, adenovirus, or, in some cases, a bacterial infection like mycoplasma pneumonia. It can be difficult to diagnose croup, as there is no definitive test for the disease. Usually, a doctor will look at the symptoms — particularly the cough — and make a determination. However, in the era of COVID, there is always the concern that your child's croup may be caused by something more serious. In more dire cases, if your child is having difficulty breathing, you should contact your pediatrician right away. It could be due to swelling of the airways from croup, or it's possible that your child's croup is being triggered by COVID.

You need to watch the symptoms closely

Because of the similarities between the symptoms of croup and COVID-19, it can be hard to tell if your child is dealing with one ailment or the other (via Healthline). However, there are some things you can take into account to help you make a determination. The time of year can be a good indicator of what you may be up against, for example. COVID can affect patients throughout the year, while croup is much more common during the fall and winter. In addition, the symptoms can also help you make a determination. Whereas croup tends to present as a sharp cough and hoarseness, COVID has a host of other symptoms, including headache, digestive issues, and a loss of taste and smell.

If your child has croup, most of the time, you can manage the symptoms at home by using mist from a humidifier or even steam from a hot shower (via Boston Children's Hospital). However, if you start to see more serious symptoms, such as blue lips or blue fingertips, increased fatigue, or a fever of more than 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit that lasts for more than three days, contact your doctor or visit the emergency room immediately.