What is Croup?

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By Dr. Alicia Kober
    From asthma to whooping cough, coughing goes hand-in-hand with many childhood illnesses. While many coughs sound the same, if your child’s cough resembles barking it is most likely croup.  The barking croup cough is caused by swelling of the voice box and windpipe which can also result in coarse or harsh breathing as your child inhales.  
    Croup often begins with symptoms similar to those associated with a mild cold such as a stuffy nose and a fever.  Once the cough develops it may last several days with symptoms becoming worse at night.  Children between 3 months and 5 years of age are most likely to have croup with the majority of cases occurring between October and March.
    Fortunately, today’s Hib vaccine protects against the majority of the dangerous forms of croup.  This means most croup cases can usually be treated at home by following a few tips:
Sit with your child in a warm, steamy bathroom 
Use a cool-mist humidifier at night to help with sleeping, especially in the dry winter months
Give your child plenty of fluids
    Croup can become serious and you should see the pediatrician if your child does not respond to home treatment.  If you child experiences blue coloring, excessive sleepiness, difficulty swallowing, difficulty breathing or cannot talk due to lack of breath you should seek immediate medical attention.  In addition, remember to check with your doctor before giving your child over-the-counter cough medication.
    Croup is most often caused by a virus so antibiotics are not traditionally helpful in treating the illness.  If necessary, your child’s pediatrician may prescribe steroids to reduce swelling and improve breathing.  
    As with most illnesses, frequent hand washing and avoidance of others with respiratory symptoms can help prevent croup.  
    Dr. Alicia Kober is a Pediatrician at Ochsner Health Center – Central.  She can be contacted at 261-9790.