‘Tis the season of croup

‘Tis the season of croup

Did you know your child might be at risk of contracting croup? With the winter upon us, it’s the season for this common infection, which typically occurs in children six months to six years of age.

So what should you know about the common childhood condition? An expert explains the causes, what signs to look for, and how to help your child recover quickly.

What is croup?

Croup is a common childhood respiratory condition consisting of viral inflammation of the upper airway caused by the common cold. Cold viruses peak during the early fall and winter. Children ages six months to six years are most affected by croup because their airways are smaller and inflammation has a more detrimental effect to their bodies. Children normally present with upper respiratory symptoms, low-grade fever and then harsh voice, barking cough and stridor, which is a noisy inspiratory sound.

Croup is a common condition among children, and they typically respond well when they receive supportive care. Depending on the degree of stridor, some children appear to be in respiratory distress and may need immediate treatment.

And this winter has been a busy croup season, says Dr. Heidi G. Greening, a hospitalist with Advocate Children’s Hospital in Park Ridge, Ill.

“We’ve seen over 700 children presenting with signs of croup in our emergency rooms this season,” Dr. Greening says. “Most of the children receive steroids, which decreases the airway inflammation while the child’s immune systems fights off the virus. Some children with respiratory distress also needed racemic epinephrine nebulizers, a device that delivers medicine in the form of mist that is inhaled, and close monitoring in the hospital. This year alone, we have had over 40 severe cases requiring admission to the hospital.”

Dr. Greening offers the following five tips to help parents combat croup at home:

  1. Encourage fluids when your child starts to get sick to avoid dehydration.
  2. Give Tylenol or ibuprofen to your child for comfort. Dr. Greening advises checking with your local physician or pharmacist for the proper dosing for children of different ages.
  3. If they have severe cough, try putting clean, cool mist humidifiers in their living spaces, or give them a steamy shower.
  4. Help relieve coughing by taking them outside in the cold air or by letting them breathe in front of the freezer.
  5. Encourage hand washing and try to avoid other sick contacts during this cough and cold season.

If parents notice stridor (noisy breathing at rest), barking cough, drooling, or labored breathing with abdominal retractions, they should immediately take their child to see a physician.

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About the Author

Marrison Worthington
Marrison Worthington

Marrison Worthington, health enews contributor, is a public affairs and marketing manager at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, Illinois. She is a graduate of Illinois State University and has several years of global corporate communications experience under her belt. Marrison loves spending her free time traveling, reading organizational development blogs, trying new cooking recipes, and playing with her golden retriever, Ari.