Croup

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.)

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5 thoughts on “Croup

  1. Hm, i’d like to hear what other names croup gets. Thanks for the advice, but one thing I’ve learned as a parent is that the most commonly repeated advice is often useless. Our one-year-old has had croup for one and a half weeks, including 36 hours in the hospital. If one more person tells me to take him in the bathroom with a hot shower running, I’ll scream — that treatment does absolutely nothing. Neither, apparently, does the prednisone, or the pulmacort on the nebulizer. What i’d really like to read about is not “it usually goes away…” but some real life experience + someone to explain why this isn’t clearing up.

  2. Well, every little system is different so you have to be prepared for hospital runs when the tricks of the trade don’t work. But that doesn’t mean that the tricks of the trade never work. They are a good first step before you jump in the car to the ER… especially when you have other small children or middle of the night situations.

    As for other names, it is possible that hospitalization ups the ante from “croup” to pneumonia, RSV, or infection. “Croup” is an ad hoc definition that encompasses most non-hospital worthy bronchial/chest colds that cause the signature barking cough.

  3. well the nicest thng that we can do on that situation is to directly go to a doctor. so the baby can treat immediately on what is best for him. the pedia knows what is best to our babies or kids.

  4. My daughter has had the croup off and on since she was 4 months old. She is now 4 and still gets croup everytime she gets a cold. I do what I can at home but sometimes in the middle of the night her breathing gets labored and its off once again to the ER for something “stronger”.

  5. If your child suffers from Croup chronically–perhaps it’s more of an anatomical thing-I say this as we were informed on many numerous occasions: “kids grow out of croup when they’re beyond four years of age.” (not mine) “croup isn’t around in the summer months” (not mine). If it IS an anatomical thing, there really isn’t much you can do–they could do a procedure known as an ERCP (i think the letters are in the right order) but that wil only confirm your suspicions.

    the bark cough will ALWAYS be worse at night time–I just got thru emailing a friend the same information–at nap time as well–think about it-when are you most congested? After waking up or in the middle of the night from laying flat.

    Never give a child dairy products–that will cause more mucus to develop and encourage the vibration and rattling of the croup sound.–

    If the child wakes up in the middle of the night and is as we say “Crouping out” and you’re comfortable doing the steam shower thing and then a quick step outside..if he stops crying and the croup sound goes away–you’re good to go. If the child stops crying, and the sound is still occurring, or if his lips or area around it turn any shade of blue or purple, or if he starts to make what sounds like a very weak whistle sound (think of wheezy in toy story after Andy found him when he was shelved), if the child is making that sound,but isn’t trying to–that warrants an emergency. Your best advice is to do what you feel as you are the parent-and every child is different–in our case, our hospital is down the street from us and as a frequent flyer to the ER due to the always STRIDER affect, we drive. Do I suggest that for you? I suggest you ask your own doctor for the answer to that question.

    I hope for those that read this, your croup experience is minimal-and don’t feel bad-no matter how many times your child wakes up with that sound, it still envokes panic–like I said we’re frequent flyers with the ER due to severe croup and strider and it still terrifies me. I’ve seen the different degrees of it as well-one being near needing intubation–and one being steam bath for 15minutes and many soggy books later and he’s good to go.

    Best of Luck to you all and remember, always follow your instincts and always seek medical attention before following our advice–this is a great panel to review your experiences and learn new ways, but again, a visit to the ER with racemic ephienphrine (you’d think I’d have the spelling down at this point–and I kid you not- croup is so common in my child’s life-it’s counted in dog years–seems like two years ago-he was dealing with it at least 5x–in one season-early summer-

    I hope all your little ones recover and I hope you’re able to get some rest yourself. Croup is exhausting.

    From One Crouping out mom to the others.

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