Phoenix Children’s doctor: Croup becoming more common among kids with COVID-19

Jan 27, 2022, 4:45 AM | Updated: 12:48 pm
(Flickr File Photo/Ryan Boren)...
(Flickr File Photo/Ryan Boren)
(Flickr File Photo/Ryan Boren)

PHOENIX — A doctor at Phoenix Children’s Hospital wants parents to be aware of a loud, barking-like cough known as croup that’s showing up among children infected with the omicron variant of COVID-19.

Croup is typically seen with respiratory viruses. It causes swelling and inflammation of the upper part of a kid’s airways, which can lead to difficulty breathing and a cough that sounds like a dog or a seal.

“With omicron, we’re seeing a similar presentation,” Dr. Wassim Ballan, a pediatric infectious disease specialist with PCH, told KTAR News 92.3 FM. “We think it’s because the omicron variant preferentially infects the upper respiratory tract cells more so than the lower respiratory tract cells, which are the lung cells.”

“And that by itself is leading to more upper respiratory infection-type of symptoms, including croup.”

Ballan said he and his colleagues have noticed an increase in croup among young children who test positive for COVID-19, especially those under 5 years of age who are not yet eligible for the vaccines.

He said the increase “coincided with the surge of the omicron variant.”

“With the previous variants, this was not a common presentation of the COVID-19 infection,” he added.

Croup can show up with a fever and other COVID-like symptoms. It’s generally not harmful but can sound frightening to parents.

Ballan said he doesn’t want parents to be worried, but rather to be aware that this may be a symptom for COVID-19.

“If they start noticing that there’s this noisy breathing or barking cough, talk to their pediatrician and get some guidance from their pediatrician in terms of whether they should go to the emergency room or just manage it at home,” he said.

Most kids with croup don’t require hospitalization and can alleviate their symptoms by breathing in cold air.

Ballan said he recommends seeking medical attention if a child starts having trouble breathing.

Treatments at the hospital will likely include steroids to decrease the swelling and inflammation of the airways as well as a breathing treatment known as racemic epinephrine.

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Phoenix Children’s doctor: Croup becoming more common among kids with COVID-19