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Study: Dose of steroid can aid kids with croup

A single dose of a steroid can quiet the barking cough of croup and let children and parents get some sleep, Canadian doctors report.

One dose was known to help children with moderate to serious croup, but doctors did not know if it would be worth using the drug for mild symptoms that would go away in three days anyway.

"We're recommending, basically, that all kids with croup are treated," said Dr. David W. Johnson, the University of Calgary pediatrician who led the study for the Pediatric Emergency Research Canada Network.

About 275,000 U.S. children under 6 get croup each year. Inflammation, usually caused by a virus, swells the windpipe, sometimes so much that breathing is difficult. But as many as 89 percent of all patients _ and at least 60 percent of those taken to emergency rooms _ have mild symptoms. Many are sent home without treatment.

Johnson's study, published in Thursday's New England Journal of Medicine, found that the steroid cut repeat doctor's visits in half, more than offsetting its cost.

In addition, parents averaged almost two hours more sleep on the first and worst night of croup.