CROUP SYMPTOMSThe most basic and identifying symptom of croup is the loud, braking seal type of cough that makes it sound like the child is unable to breathe. Labored, noisy breathing is usually the cough’s main accompaniment. A harsh voice might be detected and most children run a fever, even if it’s low.
CROUP CAUSESCroup has a few causes. In most cases, it is caused by the parainfluenza virus. Other viruses can cause croup as well. Just not as regularly. The virus which causes measles, syncytial virus, and other respiratory viruses regularly turn into croup in children under the age of 5.
CROUP RISK FACTORAny child under the age of 5 is at risk. Children who were born prematurely or who have other health problems are also prone to developing croup. Some children develop it several times a year until their 6th birthday. In a child under the age of 4, the symptoms are the most severe and the scariest for both parent and child.
CROUP DIAGNOSISDiagnosing croup is not difficult due to its tell tale cough. In most cases, a simple physical examination is all that is necessary for a diagnosis. In rare cases, or cases that are not quite clear, an x-ray may be used as a secondary diagnostic tool.
CROUP SIDE EFFECTSIn most instances of croup, there may be few if any complications. Most children bounce back from a case of the disease without anything more than a few restless nights. However, in rare cases croup can lead to a swollen airway, which can require medical attention.
CROUP TREATMENTMost cases of croup can be contained and cared for in the home without extraneous measures from the medical community. Fluids for drinking and a moist air environment, such as sitting in the bathroom with a hot shower running, can ease the airway enough to provide for comfort. Many children bounce back after just 24 hours of illness, although their voice may remain course and rough.
Antibiotics are useless against croup and should not be given under such circumstances. In cases where the child does not respond to home therapies, prescription medications such as epinephrine or corticosteroids can help the airway open and alleviate discomfort.
While extreme cases of croup are very rare, they do occur. In such cases a humidified oxygen tent or even an airway tube may become necessary. Less than 2% of croup cases require this type of medical intervention.
CROUP PREVENTIONTo help prevent recurring cases of croup, precautions can be taken the same way people are cautious about the cold virus. Frequent hand washing and proper sneezing and coughing techniques (sneezing and coughing into the elbow and not the hand) can help dwindle the possible contamination. Keeping ill children away from healthy children is one of the best practices in maintaining croup free environments.
Children who are vaccinated on time are also protected against the most dangerous forms of croup. Hib and Measles vaccinations offer protection against these very serious strains of croup.
Parents should be instructed on self care management to have the least amount of impact on the sick child. Parents need to stay calm. A frightened parent will only frighten the child which leads to rapid, difficult breathing and more coughing fits. Keep the air in the child’s bedroom as moist as possible with a humidifier, and allow the child some time in cool fresh air when possible. Wrapping the child in a blanket but walking outdoors when it is cool can help considerably.
Over the counter pain relievers and ample sleep and fluids are vital to keeping children comfortable enough to get better. A virus can only run its course and there are not sufficient medications available to counter the effects of croup. Nothing will shorten its stay in the body at this time. Children who are having difficulty breathing during sleep should be kept in a sitting position for sleep. Often cradling the child in a large arm chair or propping pillows up under them can help them sleep.