I know hardly anyone uses this term anymore—there’s several fancier names out there—but croup is when your child doesn’t feel well and has this signature “barking” cough that sounds like a dog or a seal. Sometimes there is a fever and sometimes my babies used to get this after spending time in the nursery in Sunday School where others were sick. They’d go in fine and within an hour of leaving, they’d start this cough which was so scary sounding, like an animal instead of a baby.
In most cases, croup is not life-threatening and it goes away on its own. You can call your doctor if you’re worried, but they will probably give you advice over the phone unless there are other concerning symptoms.
Here’s how we treat croup in our house. Put the baby in clean sheets and light pajamas. Give them fever reducer if necessary. Put a humidifier or vaporizer on a surface near their crib so that the air is not directed towards their face but it is around their height. (You don’t want the air to go into a wall or other surface but into the air that is near them. You also don’t want the air to point directly into them because it can be hot or overly wet.) Make sure the baby can’t reach or knock the humidifier over, either—but do make it as close to the crib as is safe. You want them to have moist, warm air circulating around them which will relax the bronchial passages when they cough and help them breathe better. Don’t forget to close the door and draw the curtains so the air will stay in there, incubating them. They will probably get wet or sweaty, which is why you have them in light pajamas. Try not to use blankets or other things on them that would oveheat them or soak up the moisture. I used to go in and change them half way through the night if necessary, and mop their little heads.
Other than that treatment, try to keep them isolated from other kids (for their sakes, mainly) as soon as you hear the first weird coughs. Nurse them a lot or supplement them with fluids, and keep them still and in bed as much as possible. If you can gain good ground in 24hours, you will have beaten the worst. If not, croup can get more dangerous or difficult to defeat. But don’t worry too much about them or the cough; it sounds painful and much worse than it actually is. I have to remind myself of this each time because it is unnatural—but on the whole, if I get to the treatment quickly, they get through it better than other colds.
Call the doctor immediately if the fever gets too high, the breathing becomes labored (chest heaving or sucking in), vomiting or other strange symptoms come in. (Vomiting once is not a problem, and may be a sign that their body is fighting something off and just doesn’t want food.)