Healthy Living

Croup in Adults

Croup in Adults

Croup is a very common respiratory infection in children, but it can also occur in adults. It can occur at any point and is quite infectious since the virus is often being dispersed through the air, which causes the infection to spread to others. Although rare, croup can also be caused by bacterial infections. This may result in interrupted breathing patterns during sleep, often leaving the patient feeling fatigued.

Croup causes an obstruction in the passage of air through a person's airway, resulting in a barking cough and noisy breathing. The reason for these symptoms is the inflammation of the trachea and larynx including the bronchi or bronchial tubes. The swelling of the vocal cord also results in a noisy cough and a high-pitched sound called stridor. If you find it difficult to breathe and notice a sudden change in your voice, then it is time for you to consult a doctor for a proper diagnosis and treatment.

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Children, particularly those who are 1-3 years old, are the ones commonly affected by croup. The reason is that they still have small and narrow airways. As children grow up, their breathing tubes become wider and more firm, which is why croup is not common after the age of 6. At this stage, the chances of having croup are greatly decreased. However, it is still possible to acquire croup throughout a person's life, which is why adults can still be affected by this viral illness.

If your child starts showing symptoms of croup, then you need to consult a pediatrician right away and seek effective treatment before it takes a turn for the worse. Children are more susceptible to croup since their trachea and other body parts are still developing. Croup continues to remain a serious health issue, especially in young children.

What are the symptoms of croup in adults?

The cases of croup in adults usually show symptoms after an incubation period of 2-4 days. During this period, a mild cough, rhinorrhea, and a low-grade fever appear. Later on, a cough develops, which is the result of the inflammation of the patient's airways. Exudates and erythema are also observed.

If you start showing some of these symptoms, you need to consult your physician right away. Your doctor may want to run a few tests to determine whether the croup is viral or bacterial in origin. 

A cough that results from croup is characterized by a harsh, barking sound that resembles the sound of seals. Hoarseness of voice may also occur because of the swelling of the vocal cords. The swelling caused by croup does not usually cause a difficulty in swallowing. Similar to croup in children, the symptoms of croup in adults are usually worse at night.

Apart from the symptoms already mentioned, many patients could also show a discoloration of the skin during their croup infection. The skin around the nose, mouth, and fingernails can turn gray or blue. If this happens, then you must contact your doctor immediately. When meeting up with your doctor, you would need to be completely upfront with your doctor about your medical history and allergies, if any, as this can have a bearing on the recommended treatment.

Causes of Croup in Adults

The parainfluenza virus (a viral infection) is the most common cause of croup in adults. Adults can contract the virus by breathing in infected particles that are introduced into the air through coughing or sneezing. These airborne droplets contain virus particles, which remain alive on many different surfaces. While parainfluenza viruses are the main causes of croup in adults and children, there are several other viruses that can cause croup, as well. The other viruses that can cause croup include the adenovirus, which is part of another group of common cold viruses, respiratory syncytial virus, and measles.

Like all viruses, croup is quite infectious, which is why a speedy diagnosis is crucial to provide you with adequate treatment and to prevent you from spreading the infection to others. If you start showing some of the symptoms, including a change in skin color, it is time for you to seek medical attention to see if you do have croup or if you are suffering from another type of condition with similar symptoms.

Other than viruses, croup is also known to be caused by allergies, bacterial infections, or a continued exposure to harmful and inhaled irritants. However, these causes are rare. Just make sure that you do not expose yourself to toxins or other harmful substances since they may cause croup to an extent.

Diagnosing Croup

Your doctor is able to diagnose whether you have croup or not with the help of a physical examination. Apart from the physical examination, your doctor will also listen to the sound of your cough, observe your breathing pattern, and ask you to describe the symptoms that you have been experiencing. In some cases, a doctor is able to diagnose if you have croup or not just by listening to your cough.

If your symptoms are serious and persist over time, then the doctor may also check your throat or request an X-ray to know if you are suffering from other respiratory conditions, which further make the condition severe.

It is important that you note the symptoms as you experience them since you can help the doctor arrive at a proper diagnosis of your condition. The important thing is for your physician to determine if your current condition is caused by another respiratory-based illness or croup. Once he has diagnosed your current condition, he can then move on to recommend a course of treatment for your condition.

How is croup in adults treated?

In general, croup in both children and adults is a mild condition and will disappear on its own after a few weeks or days. Some cases can still become serious and will require additional treatment. During the treatment for croup, it is not recommended to have a combination of a cough and cold medicine as they are ineffective in treating most symptoms of croup. Moreover, they can also lead to side effects that are proven to worsen the condition.

If you are experiencing these symptoms and have tried most of the cold and cough medicines with no effect, then chances are high that you are suffering from croup. It is important that you inform your doctor about all and any medications you may have taken since the onset of croup. Additionally, you need to inform your doctor about your complete medical history, including any drugs that you are sensitive to, as this can have a bearing on the course of treatment and medications prescribed.

Doctors also recommend the use of painkillers such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen to relieve pain and fever. For more severe cases of croup, an oral cortisone medication is often prescribed by doctors. Some patients, although rare, can have severe respiratory symptoms that require the administration of inhalation therapy in the hospital. Such therapy can provide a temporary relief from the symptoms, but it is usually followed by a return of equally severe symptoms. Hence, this method of treatment is not recommended, but it is prescribed under constant medical supervision to some patients. 

Painkillers should help alleviate most of the pain and discomfort you may be experiencing, but it is important that you start the process of treatment early on. Otherwise, you may be put on inhalation therapy and even be asked to stay in the hospital so that your condition will be monitored round-the-clock.

For bacterial croup, doctors may also recommend antibiotics to treat and provide relief from the symptoms. Other ways to provide relief from the symptoms is to drink plenty of fluids for proper body hydration. Moreover, avoid doing strenuous physical activities since your body needs time to recover. Make sure that you rest, and not stress yourself out. With effective treatment and rest, croup should disappear in a few days.

The most important key to the treatment of croup is to remain calm during an attack. Panicking and being agitated will only make the situation worse by causing further inflammation. The use of steam or a vaporizer may be recommended to relieve a patient's congestion. If the condition is not getting better with treatment, you should consult a doctor immediately.

While you may find some of the symptoms, especially difficulty breathing a bit overwhelming, panicking is only going to put your body under additional stress, and this, in turn, will cause croup to get worse. You can try out various inhalation therapies at home, but you still need to visit your doctor for an effective treatment of croup.

How can I prevent croup?

Croup is a contagious illness that can be spread to other people. You can contract the virus through close contact with infected people. The preventive measures that are used to stop the spread of influenza and the common colds are the same as those for the prevention of croup, as all these common illnesses are types of transmissible respiratory conditions. Here are a few things you can do to avoid spreading croup to others:

  • Use a handkerchief and keep your mouth covered, especially when coughing.
  • Make sure that you use a hand sanitizer to disinfect your hands and to avoid spreading croup to others.
  • Wash all your clothes in hot water, as this can help eliminate harmful microorganisms. 
  • Use separate utensils. Wash and store them separately until your condition has resolved.
  • Avoid using or touching the remote control, refrigerator, and other commonly used items in the house since others would be using them as well.
  • Try to maintain a healthy distance from your loved ones until your condition is all cleared up.

Some of the techniques used to prevent croup are regular handwashing and keeping your hands away from your mouth or nose. Anything that came into contact with someone who is infected with croup should be considered infected and must not be handled or touched by other people. Many serious cases, although rare, are caused by conditions and illnesses such as measles. To avoid contracting such dangerous conditions, adults and children should have completed their corresponding vaccinations.

If you are displaying some of the symptoms with changes in your skin color, then you need to consult your doctor right away. It is equally important to head in for a medical consultation, rather than try to self-medicate and take OTC medications. Most antibiotics come with certain side effects, which is why you need to head to your physician for a medical checkup.

Once your doctor has confirmed croup, he can provide you with an effective treatment for your condition. Croup can disappear in a few days, but it could also be indicative of something more serious. This is why the initial diagnosis is important.

Additionally, you may want to start changing your diet to one that is healthy. Consume foods rich in antioxidants since they can effectively help your body fight off infections. The next time you feel you are experiencing croup, head over to your doctor's office, and with his recommendation, you should be able to prevent a recurrence of the same condition.

With the right medicine, you can now be able to breathe easily and even get a well-deserved good night’s sleep. Remember to be totally honest and upfront with your doctor regarding your family’s medical history, and whether or not you have a genetic predisposition to the same. An accurate diagnosis is only possible if your doctor has all the information he requires to be able to provide you with an effective course of treatment.