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Widespread in infants and children and rare in adults, parainfluenza resembles influenza but is milder and seldom fatal. This self-limiting disease causes both upper and lower respiratory tract illness and is more common in children in the winter and spring.


More than highest percent of cases of croup are because of a virus infection, usually a type known as parainfluenza, although other viruses, such as RSV or influenza, may also cause it. In a small number of cases a bacterial infection is to blame.

Symptoms and Signs

Cold-like symptoms consisting of a runny nose and mild cough are common. For detailed symptoms see the specific disease.

  • Runny nose
  • Congestion
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Croup
  • Wheezing
  • Bronchiolitis
  • Bronchitis
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain

Diagnostic tests

Parainfluenza usually is clinically indistinguishable from similar viral infections. Isolation of the virus and serum antibody titers differentiate parainfluenza from other respiratory illness, but they seldom are done.


Parainfluenza may require no treatment, or it may require bed rest, antipyretics, analgesics, and antitussives, depending on the severity of symptoms. Vaporizers are helpful in mild croup. Admittance to a facility seldom is necessary unless complications, such as croup or pneumonia, develop.


If acute respiratory distress develops, humidified oxygen and intermittent racemic epinephrine should be administered. High-dose systemic glucocorticoids also may be helpful.


To prevent croup, take the same steps you use to prevent colds and flu. Frequent hand washing is most important. Also keep your child away from anyone who's sick, and encourage your child to cough or sneeze into his or her elbow.

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