Croup: Prevention and cure
Croup is respiratory infection that leads to swelling inside the throat. This condition results in the inflammation of the airways; the windpipe and the voice box. Croup obstructs breathing and results in a characteristic barking cough.
The most common cause of croup is a viral infection. The symptoms are more common and severe in children between the age of 6 months and 3 years. It is a mild condition which can often be treated at home. The infection starts in the nasal membrane and then progresses to the larynx and the trachea.
Any of the following factors may result in an infection of croup;
- A viral infection
- A bacterial infection
- Breathing an allergen that irritates the airway
Usually, croup is caused by parainfluenza viruses. RSV, measles and influenza infections can also cause croup. Earlier, croup was caused by the diphtheria bacteria and was considered fatal. However, with modern day immunization and progress in medicine, it is easy to treat croup. Croup may occur in older children too and may also recur several times.
The following symptoms point towards the condition of croup;
- Barking cough
- It begins as a typical cold
- Mild cold before the cough becomes evident
- Harsh crow-like noise made during breathing
- Labored breathing
- Difficulty in swallowing
The condition worsens during the night. However, croup is easily treated and goes away in a few days. If it lasts longer than a week or recurs more often, the pediatrician is to be consulted to determine the cause/s. In rare occurrences, the airway swells a lot interfering with normal breathing. A severe condition may also result in epiglottitis.
The pediatrician will examine the child’s breathing, the throat and listen to the child’s chest through a stethoscope. In rare cases, the pediatrician may also suggest an X-ray of the chest or the neck and some other tests to rule out other possibilities.
Most cases of croup can be effectively treated at home and advanced medical care is rarely needed. If the condition persists beyond more than a few days, the pediatrician may prescribe a steroid to help reduce the inflammation of the airway.
In rare instances if the croup is severe, the child might need hospitalization where a temporary breathing tube may be placed in the child’s windpipe. During severe outbursts of cough at night, the child may find it difficult to breathe. If the condition becomes severe, the parents might then need to rush the child to a hospital in emergency. Cool air and steam might bring relief to the child.
Since croup is a viral infection, it is easy to prevent it. Immunizing your child with the influenza vaccine will help in keeping the condition at bay. The following factors will also help;
- Wash your hands frequently with soap or a disinfectant
- Avoid close contact with people having respiratory infections
The diphtheria, HiB and measles vaccines also prevent the child from severe forms of croup.