Ever heard of an illness called Croup? If no, then get used to the term. For as a parent, you may get to hear about this infection and probably experience the same quite often. Also called as laryngotracheobronchitis, croup is a viral illness that is quite common in children between 6 months and 3 years of age, and is sometimes mistaken for cold.
Usually prevalent in the spring, fall and winter seasons, the illness is quite contagious and can easily spread via air and water. And like other viral illnesses, there is no standard cure (including no injections or vaccinations) for croup.
Croup is an infection that targets the throat and respirtory tract, causing laryngitis like symptoms in children. Accordingly, when a child contracts croup, he/she would develop a runny nose, hoarse cough and respiratory problems; effects of a swelled up larynx (the voice box) and trachea (windpipe). In addition to this, the child would also suffer from mild fever and decreased appetite.
The characteristic symptom of croup is a bark like cough (not like deep, wet or dry coughs) which is usually followed by a condition called inspiratory strider (a high pitched noise emitted by the child when he/she tries to breathe). The stridor condition may resemble wheezing, but does not pose the same threat as the latter owing to the inflammation present only in the airways (wheezing is caused by inflammation in the lungs).
Another important thing to consider about croup is the sudden onset of symptoms without any kind of warning whatsoever. Usually children who contract the illness feel fine one second and then immediately develop a bark likw cough and inspiratory strider the next moment.
Croup is also more of a nocturnal illness, working best at nights and staying subdued during the day. Symptoms usually develop overnight and remain for a few days before fading away. However, they can worsen if the child happens to get agitated or anxious. The general timeframe for croup is about 6-7 days, with the symptoms being worst during the 2 nd and 3 rd nights.
Complications you need to be wary off
Despite being a run of the mill illness that goes away on its own, in certain cases, croup can cause unnecessary complications that need to be checked out by a doctor as soon as possible.
For example, a severe bout of croup is likely to lead to the development of bacterial infections in the lungs and throats. Since a child’s windpipe is not that large, inflammation of the same may cause serious respiratory issues. In these cases, it is best recommended to rush your child to the nearest hospital for immediate treatment.
Accordingly, there are some symptoms you need to look out for in order to ascertain when the illness may possibly worsen. These include advanced stridor, (a very high pitched sound when your child breathes), drooling, appearance of blue tinge on the face and lips, sudden sleepiness, high fever, increased heartbeat rate or a near hollow ribcage or neck (would appear drawn in).
In some cases, constant drooling combined with extremely noisy breathing would lead to a more serious development called epiglottis with possible long term effects.
As mentioned above, there is no known cure for croup, mainly because the infection is viral and not bacterial. Children who get affected by croup generally tend to recover within a few days. However, the symptoms of the illness, and the side effects of the same can have a toll on your little one. And this is when you need to make sure that he/she receives as maximm comfort as possible.
Handle the Fright
Children who get affected by croup generally get scared of their own symptoms. Not being able to breathe properly, and getting incessant, painful coughs would most definitely scare them. It is recommended that parents just sit by them during these moments and offer comfort in the form of hugs and kisses.
If your child finds it difficult to go to sleep because of croup, hold him/her upright or make him/her sit upright next to you and massage his/her chest gently. This would usually soothe him/her down and he/she would eventually go off back to sleep.
A doctor’s diagnosis
In case of mor severe symptoms, it is best recommended to get treated by a doctor. Accordingly, if your baby is finding it very difficult to breathe, a doctor would give him/her oxygen, nebulisation therapy or oral/inhaled steroids to appease the swelling and facilitate easy breathing.
Home Remedies you can opt for
Some times it would be difficult to call on a doctor late in the night. If this is the case and if the symptoms are not that severe and can be treated at home itself, here are some useful tips on how you can go about doing just that.
Croup causes dehydration to a great extent. And so, if your baby is suffering from the illness, you need to keep him/her hydrated. This can be done by giving him/her plenty of milk (for toddlers), warm soup or fruit juices (diluted form). In addition to keeping your baby hydrated, these liquids would replenish the nutrients he/she lost due to a decreased appetite.
Maintain a proper hygiene by washing your baby’s hands and feet regularly in warm water. It pays to wash your hands regularly as well, for you are the one who handles the toddler most of the time.
Keep your baby away from individuals who have fever, cold or cough. Stay clear away from irritants like smoke, incense sticks, freshners, perfumes, sprays, and repellent coils, all of which could aggravate the symptoms of croup.
These remedies would give your baby temporary relief from croup and its painful effects. However, it is advised to check with doctor even if the issue doesn’t seem to be too serious, or even if this is not the first time your baby is suffering from the illness. A quick diagnosis and follow up treatment would most probably take care of the illness and keep it from worsening later on.
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