Croup and Your Child

Everything parents need to know about croup

(RxWiki News) As a parent, one of your top concerns is making sure your child is healthy and safe. That's why it's important to take the time to learn about croup and how it can affect your child.

Croup is marked by a "barking" cough in children up to age 5. Most children recover from this viral illness within a week or so, but serious cases can cause severe symptoms like trouble breathing. Call your child's health care provider if you are concerned about any symptoms you're seeing.

What Causes Croup?

Croup is usually caused by a virus. Children may breathe in the virus when someone who has the virus coughs or sneezes. The virus can also survive on shared surfaces like toys and counters. If your child touches a contaminated surface and then touches his or her mouth, eyes or nose, he or she may become sick.

Although this illness can occur in children year-round, it is most common in the fall and winter months.

Croup Symptoms

Croup's most well-known symptom is the "barking" cough, which is often worse at night or when the child becomes agitated or upset. But this illness has several other common symptoms, including fever, a runny nose and a raspy voice.

Because croup causes children's airways to swell and become irritated, breathing can become difficult. This can cause children to make a squeaking noise when they breathe in. This is called stridor. Kids who have croup may also breathe very quickly. In extremely serious cases, children with croup may have a bluish color around the mouth or appear very pale due to a lack of oxygen. Seek immediate medical care if you think your child is unable to breathe.

Treatments for Croup

Although croup can become serious in rare cases, most cases can be treated in the home. However, some children will require a breathing treatment that is to be administered in the hospital or a steroid treatment that can decrease airway swelling.

For at-home treatment, it's important to try to keep your child calm. Crying can make respiratory symptoms worse. Make sure your child drinks plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration. If your child has a fever, ask your child's health care provider which over-the-counter (OTC) medication, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen, is safe to relieve your child's symptoms.

OTC cough medications will not help croup. Furthermore, OTC cold products are not recommended in children.  

Breathing in cool or moist air can also help relieve your child's croup symptoms. Try a cool-mist humidifier or run a hot shower and sit with your child in the bathroom to breathe in the steam for 10 minutes. In cool weather, you might also try taking your child outside to breathe in the cool air for a few minutes.

If you see that your child's symptoms are staying the same or becoming worse during at-home treatment, call your child's health care provider.

Preventing Croup

According to the Mayo Clinic, you can prevent croup in the same way you can prevent the cold or flu. That means making sure your child washes his or her hands thoroughly and often, keeping your child away from people who are sick, and encouraging your child to sneeze or cough into his or her elbow or sleeve.

Ask your health care provider for tips on how to prevent croup in your child.