Croup is a scary and frightening condition which affects the upper airways. Inflammation of the larynx (also known as vocal cords), the trachea (known as the wind pipe) and the bronchi (small passageways in the lungs) causes obstruction of breathing and a characteristic barking cough. It can be due to a viral infection or it can be spasmodic. Viral infection can be passed by your child breathing in or ingesting infected air droplets which are present in an infected persons coughs and sneezes.
Croup usually occurs in children between six months and three years of age but can actually occur right up until 15 years of age. It affects more boys than girls and is rarely life threatening even though it is very scary and frightening. It is possible to suffer with it more than once as it recurs in approximately 5% of cases.
How to tell if it is croup…
The cough associated with croup involves a a whistling noise known as stridor which occurs as the child takes a breath in. This noise is followed by a ‘seal like bark’ as the air is being forced through the narrowed airways on the way out due to the inflammation.
Croup normally starts off as a cold, unfortunately the coughing and crying which occur with a cold makes the inflammation worse. It can be quite frightening for a child (and parent!!!) and often your little one will feel scared and anxious. It’s important to offer as much reassurance as possible as the stress will make the coughing worse which in turn will worsen the inflammation.
Your child may also experience a high tempertaure and this should be treated with Paracetamol and Ibuprofen as discussed in these two blogs:
- Temperatures – http://wonderbaba.ie/2015/01/12/temperatures-what-they-are-and-how-to-treat-them/
- Calpol and Nurofen – https://www.wonderbaba.ie/blog/can-i-give-calpol-and-nurofen-together/
A hoarse voice is another common symptom associated with croup and their breathing can be a little noisy in general. The cough may be worse at night which may cause sleep distrubances…for mum/dad and baby…. !
What can you do?
- Keep calm – I can’t emphasise this enough! It’s easier said than done – believe me I understand! A mums or dads stress can be picked up on by child and this can make them feel even more scared and worried. If your child becomes frightened their breathing will become worse and the episode will be more traumatising. Lots of reassurance and hugs will do you both the world of good! Try to read books or maybe walk around the house holding your child showing them pictures, anything at all once you are distracting them from their breathing. Keep chatting and talking as normally as you can and try to use a soothing tone even though you might feel like crying or screaming at times youself! Hold your child upright either on your lap or in your arms if they are having a bad episode.
- Use a vaporiser or humidifier to help soothe the airways. You can also add moisture to the air by running the hot shower in the bathroom and letting the steam build up – then (keeping your baby away from the hot water!) grab a cushion and sit on the floor reading stories and breathing in the steamy air!
- I do prefer the a humidifier to a steamy bathroom as it runs for 12-14 hours so is ideal for over night use when the symptoms of croup are at their worst!
- You can buy the Medisana Humidifier online here – https://www.wonderbaba.ie/product/medisana-humidifier
- Croup can be passed through infected air droplets in coughs and sneezes so it is important to ensure good hand hygiene is being practised as much as possible by your child and everyone in the household.
- Offer your child plenty of fluids – water, breast milk or formula. You can offer older children soup, smoothies, or fruit pops as a way to keep on top of hydration.
- Try to encourage your child to rest as much as possible to help them to recover from the illness.
60% of cases of croup improve themselves without any treatment and this usually happens within 48 hours. Croup can unfortunately last up to a week in some children. Persistent cases may require treatment with steroid medication to reduce inflammation. This would be prescribed by your doctor after a consultation. Severe cases are not common but may require hospitalisation.
When to see the Doctor
- Visit your GP or out of hours services if your child has a noisy ‘stridor’ as described above when both breathing in AND out.
- If your baby is drooling more than normal or has difficulty swallowing.
- If your child is extremely anxious or fatigued.
- If your child has difficulty breathing or is breathing faster than normal.
- If your child has blue or grey skin around the nose, mouth or fingernails.
- If your child is receiving treatment and is not responding well to it.
I hope you have found this article helpful and if you have any questions at all please don’t hesitate to contact me by sending a private message to the WonderBaba facebook page (www.facebook.com/wonderbabacare) or by calling me (Sheena) at Milltown totalhealth Pharmacy in Dublin 6 on 012600262. I’m always happy to help!