Understanding Croup

Croup is an illness that aggravates your infant’s upper airways and causes inflammation. As the airway underneath his vocal cords turns narrow, your child will find it difficult to breathe. His breathing will be noisy with rattling, and he’ll have a cough that sounds a lot like a high-pitched seal or dog bark. His voice will also sound raspy and dry and harsh, especially when he cries.

Croup tends to be prevalent in the fall and early winter. It’s more frequent in boys than in girls. Babies between 3 months and five years of age have the highest risk. The condition is contagious, especially in the first few days or until your child’s fever is gone.

What Causes Croup It?

Most often, croup is generated by an infection. There are two kinds of this ailment — viral and spasmodic.

Viral croup is produced by any microorganism that affects the voice box (larynx) and windpipe (trachea). The virus that most commonly causes croup is referred to as parainfluenza. It might start out like a cold. However, over time, your child will develop a “barky” a cough. He also may produce a high-pitched, gasping sound and pant in his lower airway when he breathes air in. The sound produced by croup, in the upper airway, is a raucous, loud sound identified as “stridor.” There can be a moderate fever too.

Spasmodic croup comes on abruptly, often in the middle of the night. Your child may wake up gasping for air. He might also be hoarse, have stridor,(s whistling sound when breathing) and a barky cough. Fever isn’t typical with spasmodic croup. Physicians believe it may be triggered by an allergy or reflux from the stomach. That happens when contents from your baby’s stomach move back up into his esophagus.

No matter which kind of croup it is, any time your child has trouble breathing, retractions (when his skin pulls tight around his ribs), or stridor at rest, prompt medical attention is needed. Stridor when crying, upset, or playing, or a barky cough is not an emergency. However, if you have any concerns, go ahead and call your baby’s physician.

What Are the Symptoms of Croup?

Croup usually starts like a cold. Your child may also have a stuffy or a runny nose and a fever. But it will not take long before your child’s symptoms change into something else. Here are some indications your child may have croup:

A cough that sounds like a yelp (tends to worsen at night)
Hoarse or raspy voice
Swollen lymph nodes
Noisy, labored breathing
Fever (in some cases)
Eye redness

Contact your doctor if your child’s symptoms don’t begin to recover after 3 to 5 days or they deteriorate. See your physician right away if your child:

Makes a noisy, high-pitched breathing sound (physicians call it “stridor”) when she breathes in or out
Begins drooling or has a difficult time swallowing
Breathes much faster than usual
Is anxious, agitated, or has no energy
Has a hard time to breathe (chest muscles pull in)
A loss in color – Turns blue or grey around her nose, mouth, or fingernails
Seems to be dehydrated, with dry lips or tongue, and no urine output

What’s the Treatment for Croup?

Croup can be distressing and unsettling for your child. But most mild cases of this condition can be managed at home. Here are four ways to make your baby more comfortable if she or he has croup.

Keep her calm. Croup causes your little one’s airways to become swollen and narrow. This can make it harder for her to breathe normally. But the more she cries and the more affected, the worse her symptoms will grow. Try to keep your baby as peaceful as possible. You can try singing to her, cuddle with her, or reading stories.

Moisten the air. Use a cool-mist humidifier to moisten the dry air. If you don’t have a humidifier, try running a hot shower in your bathroom to generate heat. Once the air is nice and steamy, sit in the bathroom with your baby for about 10 minutes. It may help suppress her cough. If it’s cool outside, open a door or window for a few minutes. Fresh, cool air may soothe her symptoms, too. You may even want to consider taking your baby for a car ride with the windows down. Make sure they are not getting too much air, which can add to the difficulty breathing.

Give your child something to drink. Providing fluids is essential to keeping your baby hydrated if she has croup. Warm, clear fluids can help release mucus and take stress off her vocal cords. If she’s very young or cranky, give her small amounts of fluid using a spoon or medicine dropper.

Keep her head elevated. Prop up your little one’s head with an extra pillow when she turns in at night. But don’t use pillows with babies under 12 months of age. You might also think to sleep in the same room with your child, so you can identify right away if she begins having breathing problems.

When to Call the Physician

If your child’s symptoms persist more than 3 to 5 days or get worse, don’t attempt to treat her at home. Get medical help immediately for your child.

Makes a noisy, high-pitched sound when she breathes in (Physician call this “stridor”)
Starts drooling or has trouble swallowing
Is constantly cranky, irritable, or uncomfortable
Has very hard, labored breathing
Has neck or chest muscles that “pull in” when she breathes
Is very tired, sleepy, or hard to awaken
Turns dark, gray or bluish around her lips, under her nose, mouth, or around her fingernails
Becomes dehydrated with few wet diapers