You wake up to your child crying and making a barking coughing sound, panic sets in as you rush to their room to find your child struggling to breathe. This is a parent’s worst nightmare and can make you panic and freak out instead of dealing with the situation properly. If your child sounds like a seal they are suffering from croup! So how do you deal with croup when it strikes your house?
This happened to me recently this past Friday night at midnight, of course, I woke to our son crying and making the horrible barking seal sound that we know all too well by now! Yup, our house was struck by croup and we are still dealing with some of the symptoms at the moment.
Thankfully we didn’t have to take him to the ER like we have so many times when he was 6 and 14 months old, we used to have him in daycare and it happened more often gradually getting worse every time!
Croup Symptoms In a Baby or Toddler
These are the symptoms to look for and they can be spotted right before your child has the barking cough so you at least know what is happening in advance, sometimes it happens to fast and you won’t catch it but at least you will know how to deal with croup.
Honestly, I didn’t notice anything different with our son except that he looked tired all the time and I knew he had been fighting a slight cold but seemed to be recovering fine and then all of a sudden after our family Christmas party he has croup!!
According to mayoclinic.org croup usually develops from a cold (unfortunately colds are very common), as an infection of the upper airway which obstructs breathing due to inflammation. This causes a barking cough almost like a seal. You may notice your child has a slight cough, low-grade fever, and reddish colored eyes just before having croup.
So in basic terms, it is from a common cold with a slight cough and runny nose, maybe a fever, eventually, this causes inflammation of the airways and gives your child the barking croup cough, due to the swelling of the airways.
Croup affects children five years old and younger and happens around the fall or spring and will be worse at night and in the early morning. It is aggravated by crying and coughing which makes the swelling worse.
The good news is that the symptoms only last about 3 to 5 days and are only contagious for the first three days.
Croup can be dangerous if the swelling starts to close off the airway (which is small in babies and toddlers) if you see the following symptoms go to the ER right away!!
When to see a doctor
- Loud or noisy breathing sounds while inhaling and exhaling this is called stridor
- Drooling or can’t swallow
- If your child seems upset or very tired and just lays around
- Having a hard time breathing
- Has blue or gray skin by nose, mouth or around fingernails
If you need more information on taking care of a sick child you may find this article helpful How To Care For Your Sick Toddler
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How To Treat Croup
These are the most effective ways I have found to treat croup!
- Use a cold mist humidifier in your child’s room, you can also use a warm one but the cold one is safer if your child happens to play with it.
- If breathing is difficult at night or in the morning take your child outside in the cold air or in the bathroom with a hot shower running for ten minutes.
- Give your child Motrin if they are over a year old or Tylenol to help ease the swelling in their throat.
- Warm baths at night are very effective to help break up the cough and you can add some Epsom Salt to help your child recover faster. This is my favorite one Dr. Teal’s Epsom Salts with Spearmint and Eucalyptus. If you have bath salts and essential oil you can just add them to the bath as well.
- Once the barking cough is gone I use Zarbee’s Naturals Cold and Cough day and night cough syrup (Only if your child is over the age of 1 due to botulism from the honey). Give one teaspoon in the morning and then one teaspoon of the night time at night (make sure they are about eight hours apart.
- Have your child drink plenty of fluids preferably orange juice or water instead of milk (which seems to cause more phlegm)
- At night I use Zarbee’s chest rub to help with breathing and ease the cough, you can also apply this to the feet and put socks on to try and draw out the cough.
- Dress your child in layers so they stay warm if it is cold in your house. I usually have a t-shirt and then a long sleeve shirt on our son along with socks.
How To Prevent Croup
Trying to prevent croup is a hard thing to do since it comes from a cold virus the only way to try and prevent it is by washing hands often like you would to prevent a regular cold and stay away from sick people. Unfortunately, there isn’t a vaccine for the parainfluenza virus (which causes croup).
Another thing that worked for us was keeping a humidifier going in our son’s room at night in the fall and spring to help prevent swelling in his airways and also using Lysol on surfaces that we touch all the time, especially his toys.
How Croup Affects Your Child’s Eating
One of the things with croup is inflammation which causes your child to not want to eat a lot of food. Here are a few tips for you to help your little one still get some kind of nourishment during this unhappy time!
- Get real fruit Popsicle’s or make them yourself and have your little one suck on it before offering food, this will help get some fluid into your peanut, cool any fever and soothe a sore throat. If you have a baby that is using pacifiers you can take the pacifier and make a Popsicle for them out of breast milk or fruit juice, this also works well for teething.
- Offer soft food like bread with butter or runny egg yolk on toast, even peanut butter and jelly is a good one to try.
- Jello is a big hit, get the sugar free kind (which is what you want, the added sugar lowers the immune system).
- Fruit cups of any kind go over well also with no added sugar).
- Bananas or oranges work great.
- Applesauce is good too.
- Food pouches are the best for getting nutrients into your sick pumpkin if all else fails, I like to refrigerate them so they are nice and cold to help with inflammation. My favorite is Plum Organics Mighty 4 pouches
Final Thoughts on How to Deal With Croup
Since croup starts from a common cold it is important to start taking preventative measures as soon as cold symptoms appear. Use a cold mist humidifier, give plenty of fluids, use cold medicine to help keep mucus under control and if your child seems to have a sore throat give Ibuprofen for the swelling.
The most important thing to remember is to stay calm and comfort your child while they are sick (watching movies or reading a book, work great to distract from being sick) and make sure they are taking naps, the body can repair itself faster with adequate sleep!!
It’s terrible having a sick child but equipped with the right knowledge you can help your little one feel better faster!
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