Croup is a relatively common ailment of childhood, which is very contagious. It affects children between three months and six years old and normally lasts 5-6 days. The characteristic barking cough is due to the noise made by the air passing through the constricted airways and over the inflamed vocal cords.
First indication is often a high temperature over 40 degrees Celsius
This is followed by a dry cough that sounds like the bark of a seal
The child may also have trouble breathing and a strange sound may be produced when they inhale
Hoarseness of the throat
Feeling of suffocation
Fits of coughing
Commonly preceded by a cold, bronchitis, or allergy attack, but may also be an indication of a foreign body lodged in the airways
Attacks most commonly occur at night
Most cases of croup are caused by viral infection which is transmitted by exposure to droplets spread by coughing and sneezing. The infection causes the larynx and/or trachea (windpipe) to swell and narrow, causing breathing difficulties. Children are more susceptible than adults since their airways are already very narrow.
If the infection results in mucus production, the airway may become even more clogged.
Increasing the moisture in the air is the best way to relieve croup. Switch off all heating appliances and air conditioners and put the child in a humid environment, such as the bathroom with the shower running. A humidifier is also very effective.
It is important that both you and your child stay calm, as being anxious will make breathing more difficult. Rest is also important.
Many health professionals recommend sleeping in the same room as your child so that you can monitor the condition overnight (which is when the symptoms are at their worst). Make sure the child is comfortable and well-hydrated.
There are many natural therapies that may be of assistance with croup, however, due to the age of the children concerned, we recommend that you consult your health care professional before using them.
Specific homoeopathic remedies according to your child’s individual symptoms
Steam may help loosen phlegm and relax the throat. Turn on the shower and let steam accumulate in your bathroom. Carry your child around in the room (but not under the shower) until breathing becomes easier.
Maintain high fluid levels – pure water, chamomile herbal tea and home made soup are good choices. If you suspect your child is becoming dehydrated, seek medical attention.
Support your child’s immune system with a diet rich in fresh fruit and vegetables.
Keep your child away from people with respiratory infections and from airway irritants such as cigarette smoke.
Most cases of croup can be treated at home, but if your child is having difficulty breathing, seek medical help immediately. Antibiotics are sometimes prescribed to treat the underlying infection. Consult your health care professional if Croup symptoms are accompanied by high fever.