What is croup?
Croup is an infection affecting your child’s upper airways. Its tell-tale sign is the distinctive, harsh, ‘seal bark’ cough.
What are the symptoms of croup?
Croup starts off like many other infections with cold-like symptoms such as a fever, stuffy or runny nose and a cough. Then, as the infection increases inflammation and swelling in your child’s upper airways- around the voice box (larynx) and windpipe (trachea)- their voice can become hoarse, and a dry barking cough develops. Further swelling can make it harder for your child to breathe; leading to a high-pitched or squeaking noise as they breathe in.
Croup typically affects young kids between the ages of 6 months and 3 years, is worse at night, and oftentimes worsened by crying.
The infection is mostly caused by a virus so is self-resolving; generally clearing on its own within a week, with a peak in symptoms around day 3-4. Most cases, about 85%, are mild and require no more than the usual support for a child who has caught a cold.
Should I take my child to the doctor for croup?
Some kids may find croup a bit more challenging though; especially pre-term babies and those with asthma or other lung conditions. Always seek immediate medical attention if you are worried about your child’s breathing.
For mild cases, there are plenty of things you can do to help them through.
What is the best thing to do for croup?
Croup, as a viral infection, responds to the same approaches as other viral infections with some additional TLC for soothing inflammation in the upper airways and easing the cough.
The cough generally starts off as a dry one but can develop later into a congested one.
- For a dry cough, soothe the throat with slippery elm lozenges or for those 6-12 months of age; a slippery elm slurry. See our blog here on ways to support a cough.
- For a congested cough, focus on warm fluids to help break up the mucus and stay away from mucus-forming foods (dairy, sugar and wheat). An expectorant such as Hedera Helix or Ivy leaf can be added in to help break up the mucus and make it easier to cough up.
Make sure you are keeping on top of fluid intake using the recommendations set out by the Australian Dietary Guidelines
- 1-3 years old: 1.0L per day
- 4-8 years old: 1.2L per day
- 9-13 years old: 1.6L per day
This can be any type of fluid: plain water, herbal teas, juice (home-made is best), clear soups or broths. More tips here.
Lighten the load by removing pro-inflammatory foods including dairy, wheat, sugar and processed foods.
Focus on foods that are easy to digest and provide anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial action (garlic, ginger and onions, turmeric, chicken broth, broccoli, cabbage, kale, berries, kiwi, citrus, papaya).
Add in elderberry syrup- a fantastic anti-viral booster.
Explore mushrooms including button, flat, Swiss brown, shiitake, enoki, oyster and more- read more about mushrooms here
On top of that…
Include a saline nasal and oral rinse 2-3 times daily to help reduce the viral load in these areas.
Dry air can add to the irritated airways so a humidifier overnight can be useful or jumping into a steamy hot shower during a coughing episode can help calm things down.
Alternatively, exposure to cold, moist air during a coughing episode can be helpful to reduce the swelling and ease the spasms. You can have your child sit on front of an open freezer door or if it is cold outside, some parents will take their child for a drive with the car windows open.
And finally, the barking cough can be quite distressing for all involved. It is important to remember that getting upset and crying will worsen things so provide lots of comfort to keep your child as calm as possible.
Do you need antibiotics for croup?
Croup is causes by a virus, so antibiotics are not helpful or necessary.
Looking for additional ways to end the cycle of illnesses?
We see many kids in clinic who are going through a seemingly never-ending cycle of one infection after another. If you are looking to break that cycle, get in touch with us today so we can help strengthen your child’s immune resilience.