Healthy Living

Croup vs. RSV: How Are They Different?

Croup vs. RSV: How Are They Different?

Childhood illnesses are very common and can strike at any moment. Croup and RSV are among the most common illnesses that can harm children.


Croup is a mild condition, usually nothing to worry about, but it can be scary for parents to witness. This common childhood illness often occurs during the fall and winter. It is usually caused by a virus, but bacteria and allergies can also cause it. A bacterial infection of the upper respiratory tract like RSV could also cause croup.

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As a common viral infection, croup causes inflammation and swelling of the vocal cords and the tissues adjacent to it. Depending on the cause, children with croup may or may not have a fever. Croup begins gradually, but attacks occur all of a sudden, especially in the middle of the night. Croup often starts as a common cold. Symptoms of croup include a barking cough that resembles the sound made by seals, hoarse voice, and difficulty breathing. These symptoms can be scary to deal with, especially if they happen at night when no doctor is available.

If your child develops croup in the middle of the night, there are a few home remedies you can use to help alleviate some of the symptoms.

Croup Remedies at Home

Steam and humidifiers have been used at home to relieve the symptoms of croup. However, pediatricians have stopped recommending these techniques as there is no evidence proving their effectiveness for the treatment of croup. It is vital that you keep your child calm and comfortable. Allow your child to drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration and to keep the throat moist.

It is important you make your child as comfortable and relaxed as possible. Your child will likely be more scared than you, and as a parent, it is your duty to be reassuring; keeping stress levels down should help alleviate some of the symptoms. If possible, give your child some chamomile tea, as it is known to be an effective stress-reliever. Moreover, it should help keep your child’s throat moist and hydrated as well.

Signs You Shouldn't Ignore

If your child is turning blue or you can see signs of cyanosis, bring your child to the emergency room immediately. These are signs that the child is not getting enough oxygen, which can be harmful if not dealt with immediately. For severe cases of croup, steroids or nebulized epinephrine are given to relieve the symptoms.

The moment you notice a change in your child’s complexion or a blue hue indicative of oxygen deprivation, bring your child to the emergency room. The doctor will usually prescribe steroids and/or nebulized epinephrine to alleviate the current condition. The doctor may also want to run a few tests to ensure there are no other underlying health issues causing the child’s body to be starved of oxygen.

The spread of croup can be prevented by washing hands regularly. Avoid touching surfaces touched by a child with croup, and keep your child away from other children who have croup. It is important that you educate your child about the infectious nature of croup and insist that he or she washes their hands with hand sanitizer as often as possible to limit the disease’s spread as well as avoid infecting anyone else.

Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV)

RSV, also known as respiratory syncytial virus, is a lung infection. Common in children under two years of age, this illness starts like a common cold, with symptoms such as a mild fever and runny nose. In children unable to fight infections very well or babies who have underdeveloped lungs, the cold symptoms can lead to coughing, rapid breathing, irritability, and wheezing when breathing or coughing.

Check with your pediatrician and, after confirming the bacterial infection, a course of treatment may be suggested. RSV can be treated and the symptoms alleviated, but it has to be allowed to run its course, as with a common cold. So, make sure your child is kept as comfortable as possible and does not feel unduly alarmed.

RSV Treatment

The treatment for RSV is the same as for a common cold. Keep the child comfortable and give plenty of fluids. Acetaminophen may be given for fever management. If the child is in distress and the condition is getting worse, call your doctor immediately. If left untreated, RSV can lead to pneumonia, as well as bronchiolitis (inflammation of the lungs’ smallest air passages).

It is vital that you consult your physician right away the moment you spot your child displaying the first signs of a cold. Get a check-up so effective treatment can be given, rather than letting it go unchecked, which may end with your child getting pneumonia or bronchitis.

Teach your children proper, regular hand washing, especially after coughing or blowing their noses. You can use a humidifier during winter to keep the nasal passages moist. It also helps the child to breathe easier, as the air is dry during this season. Apart from the humidifier, have your child wash the hands with hand sanitizer often to avoid spreading the infection to others. This ensures the child does not infect anyone else close by and limits the spread of the disease.

If you notice your child displaying symptoms of a cold, it is important to seek out medical attention right away. Being at the age where the body and immune system are still underdeveloped, your child is more susceptible to infections. Make sure you are completely upfront regarding any allergies you may have, as your child could be genetically predisposed to the same; this could have a bearing on any treatment therapy the doctor may prescribe.

Knowing your medical history and, by extension, that of your child should help the doctor provide you with effective treatment for croup/RSV. If your child begins displaying signs of an allergic reaction to any of the prescribed medications, it is important to contact the pediatrician right away. The doctor may prescribe an alternative course of treatment and change a few medications, or suggest new ones altogether.

Croup and RSV are two common childhood illnesses with almost the same symptoms. Although they have some similarities with regards to treatment, it is still important to know their differences to manage your child’s condition efficiently.

It is important to have your child’s condition diagnosed at the earliest and treat it as soon as possible; if left unchecked, the current respiratory disorder could worsen and your child could end up with pneumonia or bronchitis.

Moreover, you can try a few home remedies to alleviate some of the symptoms, such as chamomile tea. Be sure, though, to consult your doctor to see if this is advisable, as it can help your child to relax and remain calm during the course of treatment. On further consultation with the doctor, try changing the child’s diet to one that is more nutrient-dense and boosts the immune system. There are various food products that come loaded with various health benefits, from chia seeds to capsicum.

You can also consult a dietician, and make sure your child has access to healthy food that provides the body with the required vitamins and proteins to boost the immune system. Moreover, make sure your child consumes foods rich in antioxidants, as these can help fight off infections and free radicals, enabling for a faster recovery.

Since the symptoms of RSV and croup are similar, the doctor may run a few tests to confirm one or the other. Once the condition is accurately diagnosed, your doctor will then prescribe a specific course of treatment therapy to deal with the child’s condition.

It is important that you ask the pediatrician to run a full-panel allergy test to determine what substances your child is allergic to, as this can and will have a bearing on any treatment prescribed. Your doctor may prescribe alternative medication to help resolve the current condition. If your child’s condition worsens from croup or RSV, head to the emergency room and seek effective treatment. Make sure you seek out treatment at the earliest so the condition does not get any worse.