Croup is a childhood illness best known for its distinctive cough. Often described as the sound of a seal barking, the cough caused by croup can be frightening for parents, but it sounds worse than it is. Knowing what croup is and how to manage it will help you relax and get your child back to health.
Croup is a common viral illness that affects children under the age of five. (Older children do get the same illness but it is referred to as laryngitis.) It often appears in autumn and is spread in the same way that colds are spread. You can help your children protect themselves and others from croup by encouraging good hygiene such as washing their hands and sneezing into the elbow rather than into the hand.
Croup typically begins with cold-like symptoms. Your child will develop a fever, a hoarse voice and a loud cough. It may sound like breathing is difficult and breathing may be loud and fast. If your child cries or gets too wound up, breathing may become even more raspy.
What can you do for croup?
First, here’s what you cannot do: treat it with antibiotics. Croup is caused by a virus, not bacteria, so it will not respond to antibiotics.
You can treat the symptoms of croup by:
- Taking your child outside into the cold air
- Putting a humidifier in your child’s bedroom
- Using acetaminophen or ibuprofen to bring down the fever (Talk to your doctor if you child is not yet six months old.)
- Giving your child lots of fluids
If your child has had a fever for longer than 72 hours or is showing significant signs of respiratory distress, you should come into the clinic for an assessment.