Croup is a viral disease that causes inflammation around the vocal cords. It is characterized by a bad cough that sounds similar to a barking seal and breathing difficulties. Most of the viruses responsible for the condition can also cause the common cold. Croup is quite common during the fall and winter seasons particularly among children below 5 years old.
What are the causes?
There are various viruses that can cause croup.
- Most cases are due to the parainfluenza viruses.
- Other viruses capable of causing the condition include the adenovirus and respiratory syncytial virus
- Bacterial infections
- Being exposed to inhaled irritants
What are the signs and symptoms?
The symptoms are usually severe among children below 3 years old. The reason for this is that the respiratory system of children is smaller compared to the adults. The common symptoms in most cases include the following:
- Cold symptoms such as runny nose and sneezing
- Heavy breathing
- Barking cough
- Hoarse voice
Remember that immediate care is needed if the condition disrupts the ability of the child to breath normally. Get in touch with a doctor right away if the following symptoms are present:
- Difficulty swallowing
- High-pitched sounds while breathing
- Bluish or gray skin color around the mouth, nose and fingernails
If croup lasts longer than a week, recurs frequently or accompanied by fever higher than 103.5 degrees F, it requires further assessment by a doctor to rule out a bacterial infection or other serious underlying conditions.
How is croup diagnosed?
A physical exam is required to diagnose croup. The doctor will listen to the cough, observe the breathing and ask about the symptoms. A diagnosis can be given by carefully listening to the quality of the cough even via phone.
In case the symptoms seem to persist, the doctor might require a throat exam or an X-ray to rule out other possible respiratory conditions.
Management of croup
In most cases of croup, they can be effectively managed at home. A cool mist humidifier can be used to allow the child to breathe easier while asleep.
Over-the-counter pain medications can also be given to soothe the discomfort in the chest, throat or head. As for cough medications, they should only be used if allowed by a healthcare professional.