Croup audio clip (croup audio file), click here to listen.
Stridor audio clip (stridor audio file, click here to listen.
What is croup?
Croup is a condition that is typically the result of a virus such as the common cold, adonovirus, or respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). When your child has croup, his voice box (larynx) and windpipe (trachea) become inflamed. This inflammation and swelling causes the already narrow trachea to become even narrower, which can cause a dangerous medical scenario for your child.
How do I know if my child has croup?
Croup is usually preceded by cold symptoms such as a stuffy or runny nose and/or fever. As the upper airway (trachea and larynx) becomes inflamed and swollen, the child usually becomes hoarse sounding. Remember your great aunt Sally who smoked for 40 years? Suddenly your baby will begin to sound like her! Croup is also usually characterized by a loud cough that can sound like a barking seal or dog (this is usually the tell-tale sign that your baby has croup). Want to hear a croup audio clip, to hear what croup sounds like, click here! Stridor is also common during croup, which is a hoarse high-pitched sound when the baby breathes in; to hear what stridor sounds like, click here!
Most parents recognize croup for the first time at night when getting a baby ready for bed, or if the baby is fussy or crying. There is no reliable scientific explanation for why croup tends to become apparent at night, but most emergency room doctors can attest to the fact that they tend to get the most cases of croup late into the evening and night.
If croup remains untreated, the airway can become dangerously swollen, causing it to be increasingly difficult for your child to breathe. You may hear a high-pitched squeaky noise when your baby inhales, and you might also notice that your baby is breathing quickly and has short breaths. In very serious cases, a child can show signs of a lack of oxygen such as paleness and/or a bluish tinge around the mouth.
Is croup contagious?
Croup itself is not contagious, but the virus that caused the croup probably is contagious. It is best to keep other children or vulnerable individuals away from your baby until he or she seems to have recovered (usually in about a week). If another does get infected, it is not likely that they will also get croup, but they will likely develop cold-like symptoms.
What is the treatment for croup?
Most cases of croup are quite mild and can be treated at home without the help of medical professionals. Of course, call your pediatrician immediately if your baby is showing signs of developing croup, as they will likely have customized instructions or helpful hints for you. They may also want you to come in to the office so they can hear it first-hand and make sure everything is OK.
That said, mild cases of croup can be treated by exposing your child to moist air. This can be done in several ways, but some of the most popular and effective ways are to join your child in a steamy bathroom for 10-15 minutes, use a cool mist humidifier, or bringing them outside into the cold air for a short period of time.
First, the bathroom method: let the hot shower run for 10 minutes until the bathroom becomes humid and steamy, then go and sit or stand in the bathroom with your baby.
Second, the cool mist humidifier method: run a cool mist humidifier in your baby's bedroom or wherever your baby spends his or her time during naps and nighttime sleeping. Be certain to use filtered water or purified water; do not use tap water due to the high mineral content. If you notice a white powder accumulating on your furniture or floor, your water contains too many minerals. Realize that if the white powder (elemental calcium) is ending up all over the room, it is also ending up in your baby's lungs.
Third, the cold outdoors method: take your baby out into cold weather (with warm clothes, hat, and gloves on!) for 5-10 minutes and allow them to breathe in the cold outdoor air. Cool air can help reduce the swelling and inflammation in the trachea and will typically stop your baby from coughing.
In more serious cases of croup, there are several treatment options. Many doctors believe that oral or nebulized (breathable) steroids such as epinephrine (adrenaline) will quickly reduce airway swelling and restore normal breathing for 1-3 days.
How to prevent croup?
It is difficult to prevent croup itself, but you can certainly reduce the odds that your child will contract a virus the will lead to croup. To help prevent your child from catching a virus, keep them away from other sick children, and wash your and your child's hands frequently.