Today's guest post is from Melissa Arca, MD. Dr. Arca addressed croup, which is an inflammation of the larynx and trachea in children, associated with infection and causing breathing difficulties.
The Fall and Winter months see an influx of this viral illness and its telltale sign: the barking cough.
Here are pertinent key facts regarding croup along with measures you can take to help your little one feel better should they come down with it.
What is Croup?
- Croup is a viral illness causing inflammation of the voice box (larynx) and windpipe (trachea)
- The most common virus to cause croup is the parainfluenza virus
- croup is considered an upper airway infection
- Children ages 3 months to 3 years old are most commonly affected. It is rare to see a child over the age of 6 years old with croup.
What are the symptoms of Croup?
- The first symptoms of croup are similar to that of a common cold such as stuffy nose and fever.
- The fever is usually lower than 104 F
- After 1-2 days of cold symptoms, the telltale cough will appear
- This cough is characterized by its barking sound (like that of a barking seal).
- The cough is usually worse at night (of course it is!)
- The child usually also has a hoarse voice because of the inflammation of the larynx and vocal cords
- Most cases of croup are mild although the barking cough can sound quite scary especially in the middle of the night.
- Stridor which is a harsh and raspy sound when the child breathes in, is a more serious symptom and requires evaluation.
- The croupy cough usually peaks during the 2nd or 3rd night then gets better. The cold like symptoms may persist for a total of 7 days.
How can I treat Croup?
- Since croup is a viral infection, antibiotics are of no help.
- If your child wakes up at night with this barking cough, sit with your child in the bathroom while running a hot shower. After about 10-15 minutes of exposure to this warm steam, your child’s airway will become less inflamed and more clear.
- A cool mist humidifier in your child’s room will also help her breathe easier at night.
- Sometimes the cold night air will help reduce the airway inflammation.
- Be sure to treat your child’s fever with a fever reducer. This will make her a lot more comfortable
- Keep your child as calm and comfortable as possible. Crying makes this barking cough sound worse.
- Continue to offer clear liquids throughout the day to avoid dehydration
- Do not use cough syrups or antihistamines. They do not help children with croup.
- If your child is having difficulty breathing or has stridor, your child’s doctor may prescribe steroids.
When to call the Doctor
- Your child has stridor (the harsh and raspy sound made by taking a breath).
- Your child is having difficulty breathing
- Your child cannot talk because she cannot catch her breath
- Your child looks worried
- Your child appears very ill and sleepy
- Your child has a pale or bluish discoloration around her mouth
- Your child’s croupy cough does not seem to be getting better after the 3rd day
- Whenever in doubt, call your child’s doctor.
For the most part, most cases of croup are mild. Your child may return to school or daycare once the fever has resolved and your child is ready to participate in his daily activities. The best prevention for croup is diligent hand washing since croup is spread just like the common cold: droplet transmission and person to person contact.
Has Croup hit your household lately? Do you have any additional tips or stories to share regarding the treatment of croup?