image001Croup is a condition that mostly affects children aged between 6 months and 3 years. Interestingly, croup is most common between October and March. While most cases are not serious, croup in babies may be lead to severe infection and lead to hospitalization. Croup has various causes such as inhaling irritants, bacteria, allergies and virus infections. It is characterized by the swelling of the trachea (windpipe) and the voice box known scientifically as the larynx. Watch for the typical signs of croup so that early treatments are taken.

Symptoms of Croup in Babies

Croup can be identified by changes in the child’s throat and voice. Coughs are quite common and the baby’s cough may sound hoarse. The croup cough is quite distinctive and the doctor can identify it by simply listening to your young one’s cough on phone.

The illness will mostly emerge with cold symptoms and get worse at night. As croup progresses, your young one will have troubled breathing characterized by crowing sounds when breathing. The child also may develop a mild fever. Although the child will recover in about a week, the illness is at its worst in the first few nights.

Other symptoms you may want to look out for are sore throat and a runny nose. In most cases, the child will recover within a week, but it can go on for about 2 weeks and treatment is advised throughout the illness to help relieve the symptoms.

When to See a Doctor

In rare cases, croup could be severe and cause difficulty when breathing. In such cases, your child will need immediate medical attention and it is recommended that you take your child to the emergency room or call for an ambulance. If you notice any of the following symptoms, act fast.

  • Difficulty breathing
  • The child suddenly becomes lethargic or sleepy
  • The child develops a blue tinge on the face and lips
  • The child’s neck and ribcage appear to be drawn in

In the hospital, your young one will be given oxygen to aid in breathing and oral or inhaled steroids which help ease swelling within the airways. Croup normally runs its full course and may leave you and the baby tired, but the good news is that it will end.

Here is a video that shows what croup in baby sounds like and looks like:

How to Treat Croup in Babies

1. Moist/ Cold Air

Moist and cold air can help decrease swelling within the airways and a steamy bathroom could help. Although moist air helps, it doesn’t relieve the condition and you might be forced to repeat this routine a couple of times throughout the night. For some people, cold air works and you can take your child out at night for a few minutes. Hold her upright to help them breath easily. A cool-moist humidifier helps maintain an optimal environment within the child’s room. However, disinfect the humidifier daily with a solution of bleach and water to prevent mold and bacteria growth.

2. Prescribed Oral Steroids

If the moist air technique doesn’t help, the doctor may decide to use oral steroids to help reduce the swelling within the airways. Although oral steroids are administered in children suffering from severe and moderator croup, research shows that they may be effective in milder cases too.

3. Treat the Fever

Ask your doctor for some fever medication preferably ibuprofen or acetaminophen. However aspirin should never be given to children, as it may trigger Reye’s syndrome which though rare is a fatal disease.

4. Keep Your Baby Hydrated

Keeping your child hydrated is essential and you can give them milk, water, crushed ice drinks or ice treats like popsicles a few times a day.

5. Comfort Your Baby

Sometimes, a hug and some cuddling go a long a way and this helps the child relax and breathe better. Hold your child upright on your shoulder or lap and comfort her. You may also consider sleeping with the child to keep an eye on her condition.

6. Clear Nasal Passage

Young children are not able to breathe properly through their mouths and you might want to help ensure that the nasal passages are clear. Pour a few drops of saline nasal spray or some saltwater into her nose then hose the nose using an aspirator.

7. Nurse Your Baby

Breastfeeding not only relaxes the child, it also helps give the baby essential nutrients and energy to fight the illness. The extra fluids keep secretion within the breathing passages thinner, making them easier to cough out. Nursing your child for shorter durations and more frequently reduces their chances of becoming tired or lethargic.

Note: Croup is mostly caused by a virus which means that antibiotics may not help. Cough medicine also may not help much as it has no effect on the throat swelling. In fact, it could make it more difficult for the baby to cough up the mucus.

Warning: If the child has a severe bout of croup, hospitalization may be enforced. When hospitalized, the child may be given some medication to inhale like steroids or oxygen. Intravenous fluids also may be administered to prevent dehydration

Video: How to Treat a Baby with Croup

Frequently Asked Questions on Croup in Babies

Can My Baby Get Croup Again?

Yes. Some children can get croup more than once and this could happen until their airways are more developed. If your child has a second bout of croup, home therapy is recommended along with medical attention. The croup episodes may differ and while some will appear to be serious others may be mild cases.

Is Croup Contagious?

Yes, croup can be contagious and this is because it is mostly caused by a virus. It’s best to keep the child at home to avoid spreading the infection to other children.

When Should I Worry About Croup in Babies?

Croup used to be dangerous, but not anymore. Today, we have vaccines against diphtheria and Haemophilus influenzae (Hib) which are some of the severe forms of croup. That said, we cannot ignore the fact that croup could cause difficulties breathing which could be serious. In most cases, the illness will be relieved within a week without undergoing major problems. If you suspect that your young one has developed croup, we recommend that you call your doctor immediately. Your doctor will want to verify if it is indeed croup by asking you a few questions on the symptoms and listening to the child’s breathing or cough. If the child has stridor or labored breathing, visit your nearest healthcare facility. These symptoms may be life-threatening especially when the throat and airways are swollen. If you notice the child struggling while breathing, drooling or color changes to the skin and lips, call 911.