Croup involves inflammation of the windpipe and voice box. This condition is usually triggered by a communicable viral infection that results to cough, loud squeak-like noise and oftentimes difficulty while inhaling. The condition mainly affects children ages 6 months up to 3 years.
Croup is triggered by a viral infection that results to swelling of the airway lining especially the area right beneath the voice box. Parainfluenza viruses are the usual cause but also by other viruses such as respiratory syncytial virus or the flu virus. If caused by the influenza virus, it can be quite severe and occur in a wider age group of children.
Even though this condition occurs all over the year, seasonal outbreaks can occur. If caused by the parainfluenza virus, it occurs in the fall season while those caused by respiratory syncytial virus and flu virus occur in the winter and spring season.
What are the indications of croup?
Croup starts with symptoms of common cold – sneezing, runny nose, mild fever and coughing. This is followed by hoarseness and frequent, unusual bark-like coughing. It ranges widely in terms of severity.
Oftentimes, the swelling of the airway causes difficulty breathing which is evident during inhalation. In severe cases, there is a loud, squeak-like noise or stridor that can be heard while breathing in. Almost half of cases have fever.
All the symptoms are worse during night time and can even awaken a child from sleep. The symptoms are lessened in the morning and become worse the next night. The worst symptoms typically last 3-4 days and the cough persists but changes to a cough with a looser sound. Remember that this is how the condition normally progresses.
How is it diagnosed
The doctor will determine if a child has croup based on the characteristics of the symptoms, particularly the sound of the cough.
An X-ray of the chest and neck are taken so that the doctor can come up with a definitive diagnosis.
When a child develops a croup-like breathing pattern, a doctor should be consulted since a child can become very sick rapidly.
A child who is mildly sick can be cared for at home and recover in 3-4 days. You have to ensure that the child is comfortable, given plenty of fluids and allowed to rest since crying and being fatigued can aggravate the condition. A humidifier can minimize the dryness of the upper airways and ease breathing. You can also turn on a shower to the hottest setting to produce steam that can increase the humidity rapidly.
Children who might be severely sick might be given a single dose of a corticosteroid by the doctor to prevent the symptoms from worsening. Children suffering from continuous croup must be assessed by a doctor and usually given corticosteroids and even require hospitalization so that the child is under observation and continuous care.