Croup is a viral infection affecting the upper airways which obstruct breathing, categorised by swelling in the voice box (larynx), windpipe (trachea) and bronchial tubes (bronchi) and severe cough that sounds like barking seal. Viruses are the cause of the infection that may also cause a common cold. The infection generally targets children under the age of 5 and active during the winter season. It is not a serious condition and most children are cured at home. Also Read: Cough: Know About Types, Signs And Symptoms
Croup is caused by several viruses, however, most patients are infected with parainfluenza virus. Other viruses that may also lead to croup include adenovirus, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) which is the common microbe affecting young children. It may be also caused due to allergies, exposure to irritants or bacterial infections, however, these cases are rare. Also Read: Influenza Virus: Debunking Common Myths About The Contagious Disease
The child may contact a virus while breathing an infected person respiratory droplets when coughed or sneezed. The virus particles may also thrive on toys and other surfaces and the child may be affected if he touches a contaminated surface and then touches his eyes, nose or mouth.
Children between 6 months and 3 years of age are at high risk of getting croup, as their airways are small which makes them more susceptible to infection. Some of the common symptoms associated with croup include:
If children with croup find it difficult to breathe, then seek immediate medical care and if you observe symptoms such as high pitched sounds while breathing, difficulty swallowing, agitated or anxious, blue or greyish skin around nose, mouth and fingernails. If the condition persists for more than one week, reoccur, or is accompanied by high-grade fever, then the child should be given proper medical treatment.
Diagnosis And Treatment
Croup is usually diagnosed by doing a complete physical examination. The doctor will listen to the cough, observe the child's breathing pattern and ask for other visible symptoms. If symptoms are persistent, then the doctor may suggest doing an X-ray or a throat exam to rule out any chance of other respiratory disorders.
Most cases of croup can be treated at home and the mode of treatment basically depends on the severity of the condition. Cool mist humidifiers can help the child breathe easy as they sleep. Over-the-counter pain relievers are given to ease discomfort in the throat, chest or head. It is also important to comfort the child and keep him calm, as crying and agitation can worsen airway obstruction. If the condition persists for more than 5 days, then the doctor may prescribe steroids to reduce inflammation in the airway or may be supported using a nebulizer if the symptoms worsen.
Croup generally settles within 3 to 5 days, however, it is important to keep the child comfortable. Follow some of these effective measures to keep the child comfortable which includes:
It is important to comfort chid –cuddle, single lullabies, read a book or play a game. As prolonged crying makes it hard for the child to breathe.
Cool air or humid air may help to improve the child’s breathing pattern. Use a humidifier or if it’s cool outside, leave the window open for the child to breathe the cool air.
Hold the child in a comfortable upright position, as sitting upright can help the child to breathe easier.
Adequate rest and sleep can help the child to combat infection.
Provide the babies with adequate fluids to prevent dehydration, breast milk or formula is fine. For older children, soups or fruit pops may be soothing.