Croup is a viral illness, which in young children, causes narrowing of the upper airways. It is more prevalent in autumn and winter. Croup is less common in babies under six months of age or in school age children. Children in these age groups who develop croup should be reviewed by a medical practitioner.
Inflammation and swelling of the lining of the voice box and windpipe cause them to become narrowed. When the airway becomes narrowed, breathing in becomes more difficult and stridor (noisy breathing, with a harsh sound as your child breathes in) is heard. The symptoms of croup seem to most often appear or worsen at night.
Followed by the development of:
The stridor may last a few days, but the cough may last for up to a week. Generally croup is at its worst in the first few days of the illness.
Croup is caused by a virus so antibiotics do not help. Mild cases of croup can be managed at home and no medication is needed. In moderate to severe croup steroid medication is an effective treatment, which works for about 48 hours.
There is no evidence to support the practice of adding steam to the air that the child breathes. In fact there have been instances when the child has received burns from the hot water, so this practice is no longer recommended.
When should I seek urgent help?
If your child has any of the following go to a doctor or the nearest hospital straight away:
When should I seek emergency help?
Dial 111 for urgent help if your child has any of the following:
For further information on croup visit kidshealth.org.nz.
Sources: Paediatric Society of New Zealand, Starship Foundation and Starship Respiratory Services