Children are more susceptible to croup, as they have small airways to begin with. The condition is common in the fall and winter. The cough which occurs in croup sounds similar to the barking of a seal, and that's why it sometimes may turn out to be scary or a source of great concern for both children and parents. However, croup is not a serious infection as it seems to be. In most cases, it can be easily treated with simple self care measures.
When is Croup the Most Contagious?
Croup is the most contagious during the first days of its symptoms. The condition remains so as long as the affected child continues coughing or/and until the fever subsides.
The pathogen that causes croup can easily pass from one person to another through a medium of infectious droplets of saliva sneezed or coughed by the affected child. It can also be spread through doors, furniture, toys, clothes and other objects which might get contaminated with the mucus or sputum of the sick child. A healthy child who comes in contact with such objects, can easily develop the symptoms of croup. This disease commonly affects children younger than 5 years of age, and rarely, adults.
What Causes Croup?
This infectious illness of the respiratory system is mostly caused by the parainfluenza virus, although various other respiratory viruses can also cause it too. The chances of croup being a bacterial infection are rare.
What are the Symptoms?
Symptoms to watch out for include:
- Noisy and high-pitched sounds while inhaling (stridor)
- Difficulty in swallowing
- Increased irritability or agitation
- Breathing problems
- Fever (approx. 39.7 °C)
Usually croup can be treated well with simple self-care measures at home. It is only when the symptoms persist or aggravate that medical assistance becomes a necessity.
- Breathing in moist air and drinking plenty of fluids such as water, breast milk, apple juice, gatorade, lemonade, or tea speeds healing.
- Gently place a warm, moist cloth on the mouth and nose of the child to let him/her breathe in the warm steam.
- Keeping a vaporizer near the child's bed would also help in relieving the symptoms.
- Hold your child in an upright position, as this would make breathing easier.
- You can also help your child to breathe in warm steam. It would relax the vocal cords and improve the stridor (a whistling sound when breathing). This can be done by filling the bathroom with steam with the help of a shower. Thereafter, just make your child sit on the seat or anywhere preferable, and let him/her breathe in the steam.
It is advisable to call for medical help if your child's symptoms do not subside past 30 minutes, or you feel your child's condition is getting worse, especially at night. To help your child breathe better, the doctor may prescribe corticosteroids, epinephrine or other medications. These drugs help to open the airways. Antibiotics come of no help as bacterial infection is rarely an occurrence in case of croup. An overnight stay at the hospital may be required depending on the condition of the patient.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical expert.