Croup can be a scary situation for a child and their parents. The symptoms usually occur at night. A child may awaken with a funny sounding cough and labored breathing. Peily Soong, M.D., a pediatrician at Pediatrics East, said croup is quite common in children. “It’s a very common illness,” Soong said. “It’s an illness that’s caused by a virus, the most common virus is one that’s called parainfluenza, but other viruses can cause it like the common cold or flu.”
The symptoms of croup are relatively unmistakable. They include a distinct cough that is described as sounding like a seal’s bark. It’s often worse at nighttime. Other symptoms that may accompany croup include cold-like symptoms such as a fever and runny nose, as well as a raspy voice.
“One thing about this illness,” Soong said, “It affects the throat area. It can cause swelling in the throat, which can cause something called stridor, a real wheezy sound that they can have while breathing. And that’s something to worry about,” Soong said.
Symptoms of Croup
- Cough that sounds like a “seal bark”
- Raspy voice
- Common cold symptoms
- Wheezy breathing sound
Parents should act quickly when their child demonstrates the symptoms of croup and particularly stridor, but oftentimes the symptoms can be handled at home. The key is helping the child to breathe in moist air. Soong offers these tips for treating croup:
Treating Croup at Home
- Turn on hot shower, allow child to breathe in the steam
- If it’s cold outside, take the child outside to breathe in cool air
- If it’s warm, open freezer door and have them breathe the cold air from the freezer
In many cases, these actions can help alleviate the immediate symptoms of croup, however, it’s still a good idea to visit the pediatrician the next morning. He or she can prescribe a steroid to reduce swelling in the throat.
There are times when croup becomes an emergency situation. Get immediate care if:
- Child has trouble breathing with no relief
- Has stridor that is getting worse
- Difficulty swallowing
- Shows signs of a “hot mouth”
- Is pale or bluish around the mouth
The good news is in most cases children can recover quickly from croup with no lasting problems. With proper attention and recommended treatment, parents and child can rest easier.