Hearing your little one struggling with a croup cough can be upsetting and distressing for both you and your child, especially if it leads to breathing problems, which result in a hospital visit. Thankfully, most cases of croup are mild and can be managed at home, but there is plenty you can do to support your child if they are suffering with croup. You can find below my top tips to hopefully avoid a hospital trip.
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What is Croup?
Croup is a nasty, barking-type cough, often compared to the sound of a barking seal. Symptoms are due to swelling of the voice box (larynx) and windpipe (trachea), this inflammation causes a child’s airways below their vocal cords to become narrow, resulting in breathing which is noisy and laboured. The most common form of croup is usually triggered by a virus, even something simple like a seasonal cold.
Croup is a common childhood symptom and usually affects little ones between 3 months up to the age of about 5 years, it is less common in older children as their windpipe is larger which means that any swelling is less likely to obstruct breathing.
Not many people know this, but there are actually two types of croup: viral and spasmodic.
Viral croup is the most common. As you might guess, it is usually caused by a virus, often starting as a cold which develops into the cough and laboured breathing. You may find that your child’s voice becomes hoarse, and they have stridor (noisy breathing due to an obstructed airflow) when breathing in. Your child may also feel hot to the touch and have a temperature.
Spasmodic croup is rare and is thought to be caused by an allergy or reflux, this type of croup can come on suddenly and often in the middle of the night. You may notice that your child sounds hoarse and has stridor when they breathe in. They are unlikely to have a temperature, but may still have the croup cough. Symptoms are like asthma and children often find relief with allergy or reflux medication.
What are the symptoms of croup?
The main symptoms for viral croup include sneezing, runny nose, fever, a barking cough, heavy breathing, and a hoarse voice; you may also notice a high-pitched, squeaky noise when your child breathes in.
When to seek medical advice for croup
Thankfully croup is not a serious problem for most children and generally resolves itself within 48 hours, however, some kiddies get it quite badly. You should call 999 if your child is struggling to breathe, if their skin or lips go blue/or grey, have difficulty swallowing, Also if they suddenly get a raised temperature and fever or they are unusually still or quiet.
Otherwise, if you feel your child’s symptoms are generally getting worse or they are no better after 48 hours, then contact your GP or visit NHS 111 for guidance and support.
How to support a child with croup
What can you do to help your little one, so it doesn’t reach this stage? Here are a few things that have helped a lot of tiny people over the years – some practical things you can do at home as well as some food supplements that help with respiratory health:
Get your child outside – fresh air really makes a difference, it is thought that cool moist air may help to decrease the swelling and reduce coughing.
Keep them well hydrated – this is nice and soothing for their throat, regularly offer your child sips of chilled drinks as well as ice lollies to help with hydration and their cough.
Lots of cuddles – Keep your child calm, read them stories, let them rest and watch their favourite film whilst you snuggle up with them. This is important as stress can magnify croup symptoms.
Try Honey – this is the only thing that a GP can prescribe for a cough in littlies – Jarrah Honey is our favourite as it has lots of antimicrobial properties and tastes like toffee! Suitable from 12 months.
Elderberry – known for its antiviral properties; it’s my pick for viral-induced wheeze, cough or croup and you can find preparations suitable from as early as 3 months old.
Epsom salt baths – add a cup of these magnesium salts to a warm, but not steamy bath – this is very relaxing and calming when your child is feeling distressed. Pop on an audiobook of their favourite story whilst they are sitting in the bath as 20 minutes is ideal to optimise the calming effects. The magnesium bath is not so much for the croup as such, but it can help to calm a distressed child.
If your child is prone to regular bouts of croup, supporting their resilience and immunity is a good place to start. I, therefore, recommend putting in the following support for at least 3 months, as this will help reduce inflammation whilst also improving their overall immune health. Hopefully preparing them better for when a virus strikes again.
Try Zinc – Studies show that supplementing with zinc has been shown to have a preventive effect against viral respiratory infections, whilst also supporting immune health and is a good supplement to consider if your child is prone to croup.
Include Omega-3 – Research suggests that omega-3 fatty acids from oily fish, walnuts, flax and chia or via a fish oil food supplement can help lower the incidence of common viral respiratory symptoms and infections. Omega 3 may also help dial down overall inflammation and improve immunity.
If you need some further guidance with this, at NatureDoc we have a clinical team of qualified therapists that are here to support both you and your little ones at times of need. If you are looking to give your child’s immune system a reboot and want to support their overall immune health holistically then please get in touch.
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- NHS – Croup
- Effectiveness of honey for symptomatic relief in upper respiratory tract infections: a systematic review and meta-analysis
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