Croup is considered as a childhood condition affecting the windpipe, airways to the lungs and the larynx. Children who develop croup have a characteristic bark-like cough that produces a harsh sound called stridor while breathing in. The child will also have a hoarse voice and finds it hard to breath due to the blocked airway.
In most cases, the condition is diagnosed by a doctor and managed at home. Nevertheless, if the symptoms are severe and there is evident difficulty in breathing, bring the child to the nearest emergency department.
What causes croup?
In most cases, croup is due to a virus. A number of viruses can cause the disease but in most cases, it is caused by the parainfluenza virus.
Who are at risk?
Croup typically affects young children between 6 months up to 3 years with most cases affecting 1 year olds. Nevertheless, the condition can oftentimes develop among infants as young as 3 months and older children up to 15 years old. Adults might also acquire croup but this is considered uncommon.
This condition is quite common during the late autumn and early winter season. Take note that it typically affects more boys than girls. In most circumstances, a child can acquire croup more than once throughout childhood.
Most cases are mild and can be readily managed at home. Allow the child to sit in an upright manner and comfort him/her if distressed, this is vital since crying will only make the symptoms worse. The child must be given plenty of fluids to drink to prevent dehydration.
One dose of an oral corticosteroid such as dexamethasone or prednisolone is prescribed to minimize the swelling in the throat. In case the child experiences breathing problems, hospital care is needed such as administration of oxygen via a mask and adrenaline.
What are the possible complications?
In most cases, it typically clears up within 48 hours. On the other hand, in some cases, the symptoms can last for up to 2 weeks. It is uncommon for a child to die from this condition. Just remember that there are various conditions that can develop after acquiring croup such as middle ear infections and pneumonia.
How to prevent croup
Always bear in mind that the condition can spread in the same way just like common cold, thus it can be difficult to prevent. Proper hygiene is the main defense against acquiring the condition such as regularly cleaning surfaces and washing hands.
Some of the routine vaccinations for children can also provide protection to some of the infections that can cause croup such as the following:
- MMR vaccine – provides protection against measles, mumps and rubella
- Vaccines for diphtheria, tetanus, polio, whooping cough and Haemophilus influenza Type B