Medical Treatments

Baby's Health: The Scoop on Croup

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By Jessica M. Lang, Holistic Health Practitioner

We’ve been hit pretty hard this cold and flu season. Taking turns getting sick since early November. We have dealt with the runny noses, the fevers, the chills, the aches, the pains, the sore throats and who could forget those lingering coughs.  

Some families get ear infections, some are prone to strep throat, some are riddled with allergies or asthma. My children tend to contract CROUP. I would venture to guess that if anyone in San Diego County has croup, one of my children will get it within 48 hours! But its okay, because we are croup experts. 

We have perfected the at home treatment and I can spring into action as soon as I hear that unmistakable barking cough and tooting stridor (listen here for an audio clip of a baby with croup). 

My favorite, leading Pediatrician Dr. William Sears gives parents a little lesson about Croup, as a childhood illness:

What is Croup?

Croup is a viral infection that affects mostly younger children (under 5-6). It causes swelling in the child’s vocal cords, which is what causes the barky cough. The vocal cords are already the narrowest part of the air passages, and any swelling from infection may narrow the airway enough to obstruct breathing. Croup usually lasts 5-6 days and is worse at night. The symptoms tend to peak on the second or third night. Croup may begin without warning when child suddenly sits up in bed with a barking cough. Or it may begin as a cold that gradually escalates into a croupy cough. The main concern for parents is to recognize when croup is serious and when it is not. Is Croup contagious? Yes, it is about as contagious as the common cold. Good hand washing is important to prevent spread.

If you hear this infamous barking in the middle of the night, do not panic. Pick up your child and head to the bathroom. Steam it up, by running a hot shower, and sit there for a good 15-20 minutes. 

Then walk him either outside in the cool night air or stand by an open window for a little bit. This will undoubtedly help your child to breath and open his/her airway. Then crank up your cool-mist humidifier and prop your child up on a pillow. This is a time you’ll want to have your little one  in your bed for sure.  You may have to repeat the process several times, however this home remedy USUALLY does the trick!

Thank you again, Dr. Sears, for giving us some guidelines about when treatment at home will not be enough.

Serious croup: Watch for the following emergency signs, and if any of them occur take baby directly to the nearest Emergency Room.

  • The indrawing is increasing, but the sound of breathing is decreasing
    • The indrawing is becoming more labored and your child’s inhaling changes from a low-pitch stridor to a whistling sound.
    • Your child becomes paler.
    • Child can’t speak or cry from lack of breath.
    • Child is struggling more to get each breath.
    • Your child begins drooling excessively, or has difficulty swallowing.

    I may be calm about croup now, but the first time that my son Nathan had croup we rushed him to the emergency room, where I heard the term “first-time-mom” thrown around quite a bit by the nurses!  But I wasn’t suffering from new-mommy-itis(inflammation of a new mom’s paranoia), the hospital trip was warranted, upon diagnosis, because Nathan had serious croup

    It was a scary ordeal and he required a medicated nebulizer treatment as well as a steroid shot. He was very ill for about 5 days afterwards. I am not a fan of giving my children steroids or inhaled medications, however, he was struggling to breath and needed medical intervention. 

    My 8 month old son has croup right now. He’s feeling icky, but it is definitely mild croup and the home treatment is working perfectly. I would not rush to give him steroids when he is not struggling to breath, the COOL Mist humidifier works wonders, as does the steamy bathroom. So we’ll deal with the lingering cough, and the boogies and the spitting up and we’ll be very thankful that we can treat my little barking seal at home without medical intervention.

    …and that is my scoop on croup…