Croup is essentially an infection of the upper airway that is characterized by an obstructed breathing rhythm. This obstruction results in a barking cough, what is commonly described as the ‘croupy’ cough. Once the infection sets in, the tissues surrounding the trachea and the larynx become inflated. When the patient coughs, the air is forced through this narrowed passage, hence producing the ‘croupy’ sound. The condition is common in children below the age of six years, and can be a rather frightening experience if the kid has never suffered from the condition before. Though not very common, the condition has to be treated as soon as it is detected to avoid further complications, hence the need for effective croup treatment options.
What Is Croup?
Croup is a viral infection which causes the vocal cords to swell and restrict air passage through the windpipe. It is predominant among children between five and six years old. Under normal circumstances, the infections last for five to six days, with the worst episode occurring at night. The most important thing for parents is to ascertain the severity of the condition. To do that, you need to understand the symptoms of the condition.
Some of the common symptoms of this infection include a barky cough (this cough may occur instantaneously or happen gradually), a fever that is often below 104, a hoarse voice while speaking and stridor. Stridor is among the most alarming symptoms of the infection, to both the parents and the patients. Stridor is basically the raspy, harsh and whooping, usually gasping sound produced by the patients as they breathe. However, proper diagnosis is essential following these symptoms because a common cold may also produce the same symptoms.
In some cases, infection may start as a cold and gradually advance into croup. In other cases, the symptoms will appear instantaneously. In this case, a child may just wake up in the middle of the night and produce a ‘croupy’ cough. This may be alarming to many parents.
Causes of Croup
This infection is usually caused by the parainfluenza virus. Children can contract the infection by inhaling contaminated respiratory droplets that have been coughed or sneezed into the air by a patient. Alternatively, the contaminated droplets may settle on toys and other surfaces. If the kids touch such toys or surfaces and then touch his or her eyes, face and mouth, they may as well become infected. Once the virus is introduced into the body, the infection starts at the nasal membranes, later spreading to the trachea and the larynx. However, the rate of transmission of croup is comparatively low because only a small percentage of the exposed children will develop the condition.
Treatment of this infection should be approached in a series of steps. Mentioned here are some of the treatment and croup management options that may help prior to taking the child to a doctor.
1. Calm the Affected Child
Croup can be very alarming for the parents and children who have never encountered it before. The first thing to do, if your child develops the infection, is to calm her. Crying will only worsen the situation and make the sounds worse. As such, you should keep the child calm and reassure him or her that everything is okay. To achieve this, you may sit the baby on your lap in an upright posture, sing lullabies, play soft music or even read the child a story.
2. Increase the Humidity Level in the Bathroom
High humidity levels can help clear the blocked air passages in the patients. As such, you should turn the hot shower in the bathroom on and allow the water to run while the door is closed. Once the humidity level is high, sit in the bathroom with the kid. The condition should improve within a couple of minutes.
3. Inhalation of Cool Mist
Cool mist could be one of the croup treatments that you can use to help your child. If you happen to have a vaporizer or a cool mist humidifier in the house, you should turn it on and sit the child next to it. Inhaling the steam directly can help in improving the condition. Once the condition has improved, you should keep the vaporizers running, next to the child’s bed, throughout the night. However, you should not get the child too close to a hot mist vaporizer to prevent him or her from getting burned.
4. Cool Night Air
Though not very necessary, you can expose the child to the cold night air to try and improve the symptoms. To achieve this, take the child outside and expose him or her to the cold night air for about 20 minutes. Alternatively, you can take a ride with the child in a car with the windows open. This is also known to improve the condition.
5. Treat the Fever
If your child develops croup in the middle of the night and is showing signs of a fever, you may use Ibuprofen or Acetaminophen to treat the fever. These two should get rid of the fever within 20 minutes. However, you should not administer decongestants or antihistamines to the child, unless advised to do so by a doctor.
6. Avoid Milk Products
Once your child develops this condition, you should substitute all the milk product the kid was taking with either juice or water. This is in a bid to prevent dehydration, which is associated with croup. Additionally, the clear liquids play a role in loosening mucus, hence improving the condition.
7. Inhaled Adrenaline (Epinephrine)
For moderate to severe cases of croup, epinephrine is used to contract the inflamed tissues, which block air passages. After an epinephrine treatment, the condition should improve in about 30 minutes.
As one of the croup treatments, steroids like Prednisolone and dexamethasone may also be used to improve the condition. This will reduce the inflammation and allow the patient to breathe well. These will not speed the healing process, but will improve the symptoms significantly.
9. Avoid Administering Cough Medicines and Antibiotics
Croup is usually caused by virus; an antibiotic will not do any good. Some cough medicines contain ingredients that could make the child drowsy. This can be very harmful, since you are attempting to improve breathing in the kids.
When to See a Doctor
While some children will develop mild croup symptoms, there are those that require hospitalization. Mild cases of the infection will disappear with the above mentioned croup management options. However, you should seek medical attention if:
- The child appears unusually pale
- The affected child is more agitated or restless
- Breathing worsens
- The child develops a high fever, which lasts for more than five days
Again, if any of the following symptoms manifest, you should call for an emergency ambulance:
- If the kid becomes cyanosed (blue)
- Becomes unusually sleepy
- Is struggling to breathe
- Is unable to swallow