Podcast 890: Outdoor Cold Air for Croup - The Emergency Medical Minute

Podcast 890: Outdoor Cold Air for Croup

Contributor: Jared Scott MD

Educational Pearls:

  • Croup is a respiratory condition typically caused by a viral infection (e.g., parainfluenza). The disease is characterized by inflammation of the larynx and trachea, which often leads to a distinctive barking cough.

  • A common treatment for croup is the powerful steroid dexamethasone, but it can take up to 30 minutes to start working.

  • A folk remedy for croup is to take the afflicted child outside in the cold to help them breathe better, but does it really work?

  • A 2023 study in Switzerland, published in the Journal of Pediatrics, investigated whether a 30-minute exposure to outdoor cold air could improve mild to moderate croup symptoms before the onset of steroid effects.

  • The randomized controlled trial included children aged 3 months to 10 years with croup.

  • After receiving a single-dose oral dexamethasone, participants were exposed to either outdoor cold air or indoor room air. The primary outcome was a decrease in the Westley Croup Score (WCS) by at least 2 points at 30 minutes.

  • The results indicated that exposure to outdoor cold air, in addition to dexamethasone, significantly reduced symptoms in children with croup, especially in those with moderate cases.


  1. Siebert JN, Salomon C, Taddeo I, Gervaix A, Combescure C, Lacroix L. Outdoor Cold Air Versus Room Temperature Exposure for Croup Symptoms: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Pediatrics. 2023 Sep 1;152(3):e2023061365. doi: 10.1542/peds.2023-061365. PMID: 37525974.

Summarized by Jeffrey Olson, MS2 | Edited by Meg Joyce & Jorge Chalit, OMSII


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