Winter is just around the corner which means it’s about that time we all start coming down with all kinds of coughs and sniffles. Dr.Nikki gives us the run down on croup, which tends to affect kids. Now just like colds and flus in adults, croup can happen in kids at any time throughout the year but with all the bugs around in winter, GP’s and kids hospitals do often see a bit more in the cooler months.
What is Croup?
Firstly, let’s start with what croup actually is. Croup is a respiratory illness, with it’s technical name being laryngotracheitis. Any medical word with ‘-it is’ on the end tells us it involves inflammation, so croup is inflammation of the larynx and the trachea. Most often, we are referring to this being caused by a viral infection. It occurs in kids generally aged 6 months to three years old and is caused by a whole host of viruses that cause respiratory illnesses. Some of the most common culprits are parainfluenzae virus, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and adenoviruses. Measles can also cause croup where it crops up.
The causes Croup?
Croup happens when the virus infects the mucosa, or lining of the upper airways, causing swelling and a degree of narrowing. When this happens, it results in a typical barking cough, hoarseness and something called stridor. Stridor is the noise made when breathing in caused by air rushing past the narrow airway. You can make this sound yourself by trying to inhale and narrow your throat. Some kids with mild croup won’t have stridor.
Sometimes you'll need to see the doctor when your kids have croup. Things that need checking up include your child being particularly young (6 months old or younger), you can see their ribs or breastbone sucking in when they breathe, you can hear stridor when they’re sitting or lying quietly, they’re quite distressed or their symptoms keep getting worse or you’re worried for any reason.
Call an ambulance if:
• Your child seems to be struggling to breathe
• They’re listless, pale and drowsy
• They have a bluish tinge to their lips, tongue or finger
• They begin to drool saliva
Although croup can be serious, most of the time it gets better within a few days just by itself. Things you can do include keeping your child calm because breathing gets harder if they get distressed. You can do simple things such as pain relief and keeping up their fluid intake. Research has not shown any benefits to steam or humidifiers. Antibiotics unfortunately won’t help kill a virus; our body just has to fight it off. If your child goes to hospital for severe croup, medications such as steroids may be used to calm down the swelling in the voice box or windpipe.
Things to remember
Since croup is spread by a virus, it’s important to keep your kids away from day care or other children while they’re sick. In winter, make sure that everyone is extra vigilant about covering your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing, using and disposing of tissues and hand washing.
If you are concerned about your child, see your local doctor or call 000 in an emergency.