Diagnosis of Croup

A diagnosis of croup can be made on the basis of the description of symptoms and a general exam. Tests used to diagnose croup include:

  • A physical examination to check breathing rates and detect any problems such as wheezing, rapid breathing rates, and prolonged expiration and inspiration.
  • Your doctor will need to inspect the throat to check for a red or inflamed epiglottis
  • X-rays of the neck or chest will indicate a narrowing of the trachea or whether there is any obstruction in the airways caused by a foreign object. If a child is affected by croup, the x-ray will show a characteristic ‘steeple sign’ that indicated a narrowed trachea
  • A pulse oximeter is used to check if the child is getting the adequate amount of oxygen. Since croup affects the lungs and respiratory system, the amount of oxygen levels will be significantly reduced
  • Blood tests are rarely required to diagnose croup
Doctors also use a “Croup Score” to diagnose croup and measure the severity of the condition. A croup score is a standardized system of measuring symptoms such as color of the child’s skin, level of alertness, degree of retractions and stridor, and air movement. Zero points for each category indicate normal levels whereas three points indicate more severe symptoms. Overall croup scores of four or less indicate a mild attack of croup whereas levels of nine and above are indicative of severe croup. 
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