Croup is a common childhood illness that can be scary to experience as a parent. It causes swelling in the upper airway and results in a cough that sounds like a seal barking. It’s especially common during the fall and winter months and often starts out as what seems like a mild cold. The majority of cases are treatable at home and natural croup remedies can help keep symptoms at bay. Here’s all you need to know about croup.
What is Croup?
Croup is a common infection in babies and young children that causes swelling in the airways and problems with breathing. It often causes kids to have a loud cough that sounds like a seal barking. When the upper airway is infected, tissues around the voice box and windpipe will swell, and when a cough forces air through this narrow passageway, it creates the barking sound.
Most kids with croup get better in about a week and are able to be treated at home. It’s almost always worse at night and tends to get worse if your child is upset or crying, so try your best to keep them calm. The viruses that cause croup are quite contagious until the fever is gone or during the first three days of illness.
What Causes Croup?
Croup is caused by a viral infection, most often a parainfluenza virus. It’s sometimes, but rarely, caused by bacteria, allergies, or reflux from the stomach. The viruses that cause croup spread easily through the air. Your child can get the virus by breathing infected respiratory droplets coughed or sneezed into the air. These virus droplets may also survive on toys and other surfaces. If your child touches an infected surface and then touches their eyes, nose, or mouth, they may catch croup.
What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Croup?
- Cold-like symptoms
- Cough that sounds like loud barking
- Runny, stuffy nose
- Stridor (vibrating, raspy sound when they breathe)
- Hoarse voice
- Noisy or laboured breathing
Can Adults Get Croup?
Croup usually affects young children between six months and three years, with most cases occurring in one-year-olds. That being said, croup can sometimes develop in babies as young as three months and older children up to 15 years of age. Adults can also get croup, but this is quite rare and unusual.
When to See a Doctor
Most cases of croup are mild and can be treated at home, however, some kids (especially those who were born early or have asthma or other lung diseases), can be at risk for problems with croup.
Seek medical care immediately if your child:
- Has trouble breathing, including very fast or laboured breathing
- Is too out of breath to talk or walk
- Has pulling of the neck and chest muscles while breathing
- Is pale or bluish around the mouth
- Is drooling or has trouble swallowing
- Is very sleepy or hard to awaken
- Is dehydrated (few or no tears when crying, dry or sticky mouth, thirsty, peeing less)
7 Natural Remedies for Croup
1. Warm Steam
Loosening up the airways with steam is one of the most helpful things you can do for croup. Go into your bathroom, close the door and turn your shower onto the highest heat setting. Neither you or your child should go into the shower, but sit or stand outside the shower while it runs for about 10 minutes, breathing in the warm steam.
2. Cool Mist Humidifier
Place a cool mist humidifier in your child’s bedroom at night. This will put a continuous stream of mist into the air while they sleep, which can reduce coughing and make breathing easier. It helps the nasal passages and airways stay moist so the cough doesn’t become aggravated. It also helps loosen up mucus.
3. Lots of Fluids
Make sure your child drinks lots of fluids to help them recover from croup. It’s important they stay well hydrated as it helps replace any fluids lost from a fever, and makes it easier for your body to fight the infection.
Water is the best choice for hydration. For babies, breastmilk or formula is essential, while older children can have soups, broths, coconut water, and homemade healthy fruit popsicles. Warm liquids like soups and tea are particularly helpful to relax the vocal cords and soothe the barking cough.
4. Cold Air
Breathing in cold air can help kids experiencing laboured breathing or stridor. Standing in front of an open freezer and taking a few long breaths can be helpful. You can also bundle up and take your child outside if it’s cold out. Be sure to avoid prolonged exposure to extreme cold, but if the temperature allows, make sure your child is properly dressed and stay outside for 10 to 20 minutes.
5. Elevated Rest
Symptoms of croup tend to get worse when a child is lying flat. Prop them up in bed or on the couch with pillows to help make breathing easier and curb the cough. Trying to get them to sit upright or recline only slightly while resting can also help. Just don’t use pillows for very young babies and infants. You can place books under the crib mattress to create an incline.
6. Chicken Soup
A healthy, immune-boosting chicken soup can help clear congestion and soothe croup symptoms. Adding veggies like carrots and onion to the soup will make it more nutrient dense, and garlic and ginger can help boost the immune system. Although any soup can feel good when you’re under the weather, make sure to steer clear of soups with dairy since it can increase mucus production and make coughs worse.
If your child is over the age of one, honey can be helpful to soothe croup symptoms. It contains antibiotic, antioxidant, and immune-boosting properties that help fight bacterial and viral infections. Add one teaspoon of raw honey to warm water and give it to your child to drink two to three times per day.
We hope you found these natural remedies for croup useful to help soothe your child’s symptoms.
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