Croup vs RSV

This article reveals the differences between croup and RSV:


It is an infectious condition that causes swelling and inflammation of the windpipe (trachea), the voice box (larynx), and the airways (bronchi). These are the lower and upper parts of the breathing tube, which connects the top of the lungs with the mouth.

The infection is characterized by the sudden onset of a hoarse voice, a barky cough,  respiratory distress, and inspiratory stridor.

It is contagious, particularly during the first few days of the illness and until the fever is gone.


An estimated 3 in 100 children will suffer from the infection every year, especially in the fall and winter months.

It commonly targets children under the age of 5. It rarely occurs in children aged over 6 years. Boys are more prone than girls.

About 5% of children seen in the emergency department for this infection need hospitalization. But, the majority of children admitted to the hospital come home within 24 hours as symptoms typically improve fast.


Common symptoms may include:

  • swollen lymph nodes;
  • a cough that sounds like a bark;
  • eye redness;
  • hoarse or raspy voice;
  • rash;
  • fever (in some cases);
  • noisy, labored breathing.

When to Call the Doctor

Call your doctor if the child:

  • has signs of respiratory distress, like – rapid breathing or retractions of skin around the ribs from deep breathing;
  • has a high fever;
  • is having signs of sluggishness or restlessness either from dehydration or respiratory distress;
  • is drooling excessively;
  • has difficulty swallowing;
  • has noisy breathing;
  • is breathing faster than normal;
  • speaks in short sentences due to a lack of breath;
  • begins to struggle to breathe;
  • starts having loud, high-pitched wheezing while breathing;
  • has signs of dehydration, including decreased urination or dry mouth.


Pneumonia and middle ear infections are two common complications that can develop after croup.


It is typically caused by a viral infection. The most frequent virus is the parainfluenza virus, but other viruses can cause the infection as well, such as:

  • enteroviruses;
  • adenovirus;
  • measles;
  • influenza virus;
  • respiratory syncytial virus.

Less common causes include:

  • acid leaking back out of the stomach and into the throat;
  • inhalation of irritants, like – chemicals;
  • some types of pathogenic bacteria;
  • an allergic reaction to substances, like – dust mites or pollen;
  • epiglottitis – inflammation of the flap at the base of the tongue;
  • inhaling a small object, like – a pen cap or a peanut.

Risk Factors

Risk factors for developing the infection include the following:

  • asthma;
  • young age;
  • viral infection, since about 75 percent of all cases result from the parainfluenza virus;
  • late autumn.


X-ray and laboratory testing are rarely needed. It is typically diagnosed based on the patient’s signs and symptoms.


Self-care measures at home are commonly sufficient to treat the majority of cases.

If the breathing is noisy or difficult, it is recommended to sit your child upright. Also, encourage the child to drink plenty of fluids.

Medications that can help reduce the swelling and inflammation in mild to moderate infections include:

  • inhaled corticosteroid medicine;
  • oral corticosteroid medicine.

If the child has breathing problems, he may require hospital treatment, like – oxygen and adrenaline.


Keeping the child comfortable and hydrated will usually allow the infection to run its course without any medical treatment. Most cases begin to improve in 3 to 7 days.


To prevent the infection, take the same steps you use to prevent flu and colds.

Frequent hand-washing is essential to prevent contracting the infection; also, avoiding close contact with individuals who have a respiratory infection.

Spending time outside (for vitamin D boost) and a regular diet rich in fruits and veggies will enhance the immune system.

RSV (Respiratory Syncytial Virus)

It is a common respiratory virus that usually causes mild, cold-like symptoms. It can cause serious respiratory infections in young babies, particularly those who are immunocompromised or are born prematurely.

The virus is highly contagious and most commonly causes illness during the winter season.


In the US, about 75,000 children are hospitalized every year due to RSV.

Worldwide, an estimated 64 million infections a year are caused by this virus, according to the World Health Organization.


Common symptoms may include:

  • apnea (stopping breathing), especially among young infants;
  • low-grade fever;
  • a mild cough;
  • a runny nose;
  • nasal congestion;
  • cyanosis – bluish color around the lips, mouth, and fingernails;
  • irritability;
  • a barking cough;
  • lethargy;
  • difficulty drinking;
  • wheezing;
  • abnormally fast breathing.

When to Call the Doctor

Seek immediate medical attention if your child has a high fever, difficulty breathing, or a blue color to the skin.


Some patients can develop croup and ear infections.


The virus is spread from respiratory secretions through contact with contaminated objects or surfaces or close contact with infected individuals.

Risk Factors

Individuals at the highest risk include:

  • older adults, especially those with lung disease or underlying heart problems;
  • premature infants;
  • young children or adults with compromised immune systems;
  • young children with chronic lung or congenital heart disease.

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The diagnosis of RSV infection can be made by:

  • demonstration of a rise in serum antibodies;
  • detection of viral RNA;
  • detection of viral antigens;
  • isolation of the virus.


Most cases of RSV are mild and don’t need any medical treatment. But, here are some guidelines for home treatment:

  • give non-aspirin pain reliever;
  • use a nasal aspirator or blow the nose frequently;
  • use a cool-mist vaporizer during the winter months to keep the air moist;
  • give plenty of fluids;
  • eat foods rich in vitamin C.

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Most affected children are well on their way to recovery in about seven days, and almost all fully recover.


There are some steps you can take to try to prevent the infection:

  • avoid smoking tobacco around your baby;
  • keep your children away from anyone who has cold symptoms;
  • keep your baby away from crowded areas;
  • avoid kissing your baby if you have symptoms of an infection;
  • have people wash their hands before picking up and holding their children;
  • disinfect hard surfaces;
  • wash your hands often.

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Croup vs RSV (Respiratory Syncytial Virus) – Differences

Croup is a viral condition that causes swelling of the trachea, larynx, and bronchial tubes. The infection is typically caused by a virus. Rarely, it may be caused by bacteria. Varying degrees of airway obstruction, barking cough, and hoarseness are the defining symptoms.

RSV (respiratory syncytial virus) is a respiratory virus that infects the lungs and breathing passages. It is the most common cause of lower respiratory tract infections in kids.

In conclusion, croup is a viral condition, whereas RSD is a virus that may cause RSV.

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