How to treat your baby for croup

  • For a parent, the symptoms of croup are inherently unnerving because they cause the baby emotional distress.

    For a parent, the symptoms of croup are inherently unnerving because they cause the baby emotional distress. Stock Photo

By Amita Health
Posted11/22/2020 6:00 AM

One of the most nerve-wracking experiences for any new parent is the first time a baby gets sick. Because babies can't yet verbalize their symptoms or how they're feeling, it can be difficult to diagnose exactly what's wrong or understand how seriously to treat it.

Croup can be especially frightening for parents. Its symptoms are inherently unnerving and cause the baby emotional distress; however, in most cases, the disease can be easily treated at home.


To help set your mind at ease, here is how to interpret your baby's symptoms and determine if medical attention is warranted.

What is croup?

Croup is an infection in the upper airway that causes the voice box and windpipe to swell up. The infection is usually caused by a virus, though allergies, bacteria and other environmental irritants can also be a factor. Children between the ages of three months and five years are particularly susceptible to croup, peaking around age two. Croup tends to occur most frequently during the colder months from October to March.

Common symptoms of croup

Pediatricians advise parents to listen for a telltale cough -- an instantly recognizable, hoarse, deep cough that's often compared to a barking seal. This cough tends to flare up at night. Other symptoms include a hoarse voice, low fever and noisy or labored breathing.

When to seek immediate medical attention

Severe cases of croup can be potentially life-threatening and present additional symptoms. If your baby has any of the following symptoms, take them to the nearest emergency department immediately:

• Drooling or difficulty breathing.

• Noisy, high-pitched sounds when both inhaling and exhaling -- a condition referred to as "stridor."

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• Any signs that the child is struggling to breathe.

• Lips or skin turning blue.

How to treat croup

Croup often runs its course within three to five days. Plenty of rest, plenty of fluids and keeping the child in a comfortable, upright position to facilitate breathing are often all that's needed to clear it. If the child has a fever, over-the-counter medicines such as acetaminophen can be administered.

Finally, keep the child calm with cuddles, play, lullabies or reading. Staying calm helps lessen crying, which can aggravate croup symptoms and make breathing more difficult.

If these measures don't improve your baby's condition, schedule a checkup with your pediatrician or family doctor. Treatment recommendations will depend upon the severity of the symptoms. Your doctor may prescribe an oral steroid for mild respiratory distress. Greater distress may require a combination of oxygen and humidified air and, in severe cases, the child may be admitted for more intensive management.

• Children's health is a continuing series. This week's article is courtesy of Amita Health.

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