The treatment for croup usually depends on the severity of the symptoms. Most cases of croup are mild and can be easily managed at home. Nevertheless, if the child has a severe case, admission to the hospital is necessary.
If the doctor diagnoses the condition as a mild case, home treatment is recommended which often involves paracetamol to relieve any pain linked with the condition and also help reduce the body temperature if fever is present.
The child should also be encouraged to drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration. Always comfort the child since the symptoms can become worse if they are crying or agitated. In case the child is distressed, allow the child to sit upright on your lap to help comfort and reassure him/her.
The doctor might also prescribe one dose of an oral corticosteroid medication such as prednisolone or dexamethasone to minimize the swelling in the throat. The possible side effects of these medications include vomiting, restlessness, headache and stomach upset.
Remember that steam treatment is not recommended for croup. There is still no proof that allowing the child to breathe in humid air such as steam from a hot shower or bath in a closed area can help. It is vital to seek medical care if the symptoms start to get worse.
Pain medications for children
Pain medications such as ibuprofen or paracetamol are readily available in liquid form for children over-the-counter. Children below 16 years old must not be given aspirin. A doctor should be consulted if in doubt on the medication to use for the child.
Avoid using cough medications or decongestants since these do not help ease the symptoms of croup. Remember that these treatments often cause drowsiness that can be dangerous when a child has breathing difficulties.
Treatment at the hospital
In severe cases of croup, hospitalization might be required. The breathing problems such as shortness of breath are a main symptom of severe croup. Call for emergency assistance if the child starts to struggle while breathing.
In case the child has severe croup, he/she can be given adrenaline via a nebulizer. This can help manage the symptoms within 10-30 minutes and the effects must last for up to 2 hours. A nebulizer will allow the child to breathe the medication in mist form. In case the child is very distressed and finds it hard to breathe, oxygen is administered via an oxygen mask.
As for mild cases of croup, oral dexamethasone or prednisolone is given to reduce the swelling in the airways. In uncommon cases, hospitalization is required in which intubation is started. During intubation, a tube is inserted either via the nostril or mouth and passed down into the windpipe.
With the help of intubation, the child can breathe in more easily. Take note that intubation is carried out under general anesthesia. This simply means that the child is completely unconscious during the procedure so that he/she will not experience distress or pain.