Children, especially the younger ones are prone to have croup. It is a viral infection that causes swelling and inflammation of the vocal cords. Croup is characterized by a bad cough that resembles a barking seal and difficulty in breathing. The virus that causes croup is also the same virus that causes the common cold. Croup is common during the winter months.
The symptoms are more severe in younger children because they have smaller airways than older children and adults. Fever, barking cough, hoarse voice, and difficulty in breathing are the common symptoms of croup. Some children may experience recurring bouts of croup, which may appear along with the cold.
Croup can threaten a child’s ability to breathe. Thus, immediate medical help is required to relieve a child's breathing. In addition, a child that continues to have croup for more than a week, recurs often, or comes with a high fever must be brought to the doctor for an evaluation to rule out other conditions.
Most cases of croup are mild and are effectively managed at home. As the attacks of croup frequently happen at night, children with croup commonly experience trouble sleeping at night due to difficulty in breathing. It makes them agitated, restless, and makes them cry.
Managing croup at home involves:
- Comforting your child – the symptoms of croup such as noisy breathing and barking cough can make your child feel scared or frightened, which will only make the situation worse. Comfort your child and help your child get relaxed. This will make your child breathe better. Other ways to comfort your child are giving your child a back rub or a hug, offering a favorite toy, singing bedtime songs, saying reassuring words, watching a video, or reading a book. If your child is distressed, sit him/her upright on your lap for comfort.
- Moisture in the air – because the airway is narrowed and constricted, the moist in the air can help dilate the airway. Make a steam and let your child breathe in the air. You can also use vaporizers in your child’s room as humidified air can help in treating croup.
- Make sure your child is hydrated – give your child frequent fluids to drink to avoid dehydration.
- Over-the-counter medicine – pain relievers help ease your child's discomfort in the head, throat, or chest. If your child has a fever, acetaminophen, paracetamol, or ibuprofen can help decrease the body’s temperature.
**Note: Currently, there is no evidence that shows the effectiveness of steam and vaporizers for the treatment of croup.
There is no specific home treatment for croup. This viral condition usually gets better within three to four days. Calming your child plays an important role in the treatment of croup because breathing will become very difficult when the child is upset or anxious.
Croup could get worse fast. If difficulty breathing gets worse, immediate medical attention, your child must be seen by a doctor. Moreover, if your child’s croup was not effectively managed through home treatments, a doctor’s attention is needed.
Doctors may prescribe steroids like prednisolone to help reduce inflammation and swelling in the airway; thus, making your child's breathing easier. Antibiotics are not prescribed as croup is a viral infection. Therefore, antibiotics will not work on viruses. However, if the condition is associated with a bacterial infection, antibiotics can then be given.