Being safe and informed is always key, especially when it comes to our children’s health. If you are not a specialist in this area, don't worry! You have already taken the first step to being a better parent just by being curious and researching to stay one step ahead so you can prepare and not panic. So, let's talk about Croup, determine what it is, how to identify signs and symptoms, and when to seek help.
What is Croup?
Croup is an infection of the upper airway, also known as the larynx, which causes the airway to swell and block. This results in extreme discomfort in breathing and speaking. Even though the Croup signs and symptoms along with its nature may sound worrisome, croup is usually self-curable and can be treated at home, if it doesn’t go away with home remedies, your doctor will prescribe something to take care of the problem.
To answer the question: is Croup a serious illness? We can say that the disease is mildly serious when the symptoms are identified and treated swiftly. Another factor which increases the seriousness of Croup a little, is its contagiousness. Yes, Croup is contagious and can spread through the air if one inhales the droplets of coughs and sneezes of an already infected person. While Croup mostly affects infants to toddlers, it can infect teenagers and adults on rare occasions.
Signs & Symptoms of Croup
Now that we know what Croup is, let's try to understand how to identify when a child has Croup.
Most of the time Croup begins as an ordinary cold. This is the major reason why parents need to be increasingly aware to identify the differences between a cold turning into a Croup. Many parents tend to avoid certain symptoms of Croup, disregarding them as a common cold or regular self-healing symptom.
To ensure that you don't repeat the same mistake, here are some indicative Croup signs and symptoms which can be detected at an early stage.
A fever is a symptom of Croup that can be easily disregarded as a normal fever. There is no significant difference between a regular fever and a Croup fever. However, distinct symptoms of Croup begin to show at around 2 days post-infection. If the fever is accompanied by any of the following symptoms, your ward has been infected with Croup.
A stuffed and/or runny nose along with a fever which is also a common case is another symptom of Croup. A similar principle of 2 days applies to cold as well. You can also know that the child has been infected with Croup if they have been in contact with any other child who was already infected.
3. Bark-like coughing
Now, this is one of the most distinctive and unique symptoms of Croup which makes Croup a serious illness. Usually, cough, cold and fever come as a 'Buy 1 Get 2 Free Offer' for children! Once infected with one, the other two follow. However, if your child has been infected with Croup then the coughing that follows is not just a regular cough.
As the larynx is swollen, the sound of coughing comes out differently than a regular cough and almost sounds like a dog's bark. This is known as the barking cough. It’s definitely distinct and sounds scary as a first-time parent, but not to worry, we’ll get you covered.
4. Hoarse voice
A tell-tale sign of Croup can also be a hoarse voice and a slightly painful throat. If your child is old enough to complain of having a sore throat a few days before the infection, or if he/she can say a few words a hoarse voice can be seen developing in the child as the infection grows.
5. Noisy/labored breathing
As this is an infection of the upper airway, it causes some complications in the breathing area. As the air passes through a large swelling in the throat while inhaling and exhaling, it can cause hyperventilating and noisy or labored breathing in your children.
Can Croup be treated at home?
Croup is usually treated by medication and normal home treatments. Initially, you can try treating the infection at home unless it doesn't get too painful and till time you can see signs Croup is getting better.
When to Seek Help?
Is Croup a serious illness? No, but if the child does not respond to home treatment, or if you see that the symptoms are getting worse or persistent, then you should connect to a health care provider.
Usually, a common cold disease should subside the symptoms in 3 to 5 days. If it is taking longer than that then you may visit a pediatrician, we like to follow the same rule of thumb for croup. However, this is not a rule that has to be followed. It is based on several observations, but the final call always differs on a case-to-case basis and your comfort level, first-time parents tend to be overly cautions (with reason) and want to see a specialist right away, and that’s ok too and obviously more experienced parents tend to wait a little longer, as they have a little more practice.
Apart from this, if during home treatment a child displays any of the following signs, you should seek immediate medical attention:
- Inhaling and exhaling becoming too difficult with noisy or high-pitched sounds (for both)
- Drooling unconsciously or issues with swallowing properly
- Quicker breathing rate than usual, displaying signs of extreme struggle to breathe
- A blue/grey tint has developed around the nose, mouth or on the fingernails
These are some exceptional problems that can occur any day between day 1 to day 5 of the infection. Do not hesitate to contact your healthcare provider in case the children need immediate medical attention.
How can we avoid Croup infection?
The major reason for getting a Croup infection in children is contagiousness. The best way to keep away from such viral infections is to maintain hygiene. Your child may such infection by breathing infected respiratory droplets sneezed or coughed into the air
Washing hands regularly, especially before eating, feeding, or having any contact with the mouth, sanitizing regularly, not touching dirty outside surfaces, keeping distance from anyone you know is infected already, etc. Virus particle droplets may also survive on toys among other surfaces.
With Croup we can only take precautionary measures. In case the child does get infected with Croup, depending on age, they can start wearing masks/gloves to avoid the further spread of the disease, or you may want to keep siblings apart as much as possible during the infectious stages, which is typically the first three days.
It is also important to build a stronger immune system at home. Eating leafy vegetables and fruits can help you build a stronger immune system which can in turn minimize the risks and damages in case of infection.
You’ve taken the first step in preparing and arming yourself with information should croup affect your family! As mentioned, croup has certain common and distinct features that can help you easily identify and set it apart from other illnesses that come along with common cold.
So now that you know all the basics for Croup and its workings, you are ready for any Croup-related health problems! Happy parenting!