Croup is a viral ailment that results to inflammation of the vocal cords. The condition is characterized by difficulty breathing with a bad cough like a barking seal. The condition is prevalent during the autumn and winter season, usually affecting children below 5 years old.
Various viruses are known to cause croup. Most cases are brought about by the parainfluenza viruses. Other viruses that can cause croup include:
- Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV)
The condition can also be triggered by allergies, bacterial infections or exposure to inhaled irritants, but these are considered rare.
What are the signs?
The symptoms tend to be severe among children below 3 years of age. The reason for this is that the respiratory system of children is smaller than adults.
The signs that are likely present in most cases include:
- Common cold symptoms such as runny nose and sneezing
- Heavy breathing
- Bark-like cough
- Hoarse voice
Prompt medical care is necessary if croup disrupts with the ability of the child to breathe. A doctor should be consulted as a soon as possible if symptoms such as the following are present:
- Difficulty swallowing
- High-pitched sounds while breathing
- Bluish or gray skin around the mouth, nose and fingernails
Remember that if croup lasts longer than a week, recurs frequently or accompanied by fever up to 103.5 degrees, a doctor must be consulted. Further assessment is required to dismiss bacterial infections or other serious ailments.
In most cases, the condition can be effectively managed at home. The doctor can monitor the progress of the child by talking to the parents via phone. A cool mist humidifier can help the child breathe easier while sleeping.
Over-the-counter pain medications can alleviate the discomfort in the chest, throat or head.
If the child has difficulty breathing, it is best to bring him/her to the nearest healthcare facility. The doctor might decide to administer steroid medications to open the airway to allow easier breathing. These are prescribed for extended use at home.
In severe cases, a breathing tube might be utilized to provide the child with adequate oxygen. Antibiotics are given if a bacterial infection is responsible while being hospitalized and prescribed for later use. In addition, if dehydration is present, intravenous fluids are given.