Croup

When my 4 month old baby had Croup it was the scariest night of my life.  In fact this was now 9 months ago and it is only now that I can look back on it and actually write about it without feeling the fear again. I should immediately say that Croup is usually a mild illness that passes on its own, but for our little one it was more serious.  I knew that it was Croup straight away due to the sound of his cough as I had heard tell of a dog like bark and I knew it could be an issue for them, but I didn’t know anything else beyond that and I wished I had so I hope that I can share my experiences of Croup and have this be of use to someone else.

So what is Croup?

According to the NHS UK:

“Croup is a childhood condition that affects the windpipe, the airways to the lungs and the voicebox”

It is often caused by a viral infection, but can also be an allergic reaction.  My little one had viral croup so I only have experience of this type, but the treatments are the same for both and as I understand it (I am no medical expert) the difference is that one is caused by a virus and develops over a few days and the other is caused by an allergic reaction and is therefore can be repeated, shorter lasting and develops more quickly (known as spasmodic croup).

The NHS UK page on Croup is very helpful with more details about both types and is definitely worth a look: NHS CROUP

Main symptoms of Viral Croup:

Starts off like a cold,  but over a couple of days some of  the following will develop:

  • a cough which sounds like a bark
  • A hoarse croaky voice
  • difficulty breathing
  • a harsh grating sound when breathing in called stridor
  • difficulty swallowing

The symptoms get worse when they are coughing or crying, but can also happen when they are sleeping and tend to be worse at night.

For most children it is mild and just sitting them upright using paracetamol to lower fever (always follow instructions on packets for dosage etc…), keeping them hydrated and comforting them to keep them calm and not worsen symptoms by crying.  Personally I would recommend seeing a doctor just to be on the safe side as they may want to prescribe a steroid does to reduce swelling in the throat.  In my experience they simply said viral infection and sent us away, but I am not a doctor so always get advice from a medical professional if you are unsure or concerned.

People also say that running a hot bath/ shower with the bathroom closed to create steam and then simply sitting in the room with the child to relieve symptoms (obviously don’t put your child into or anywhere near the hot water it is just about being in the steamy room)

For a very small number Croup can be more serious and result in hospitalisation (usually about 5% of kids).  This is unfortunately what happened to us with out little one, but back to that in a inute.  The more serious symptoms that require urgent medical attention are:

  • severe breathing difficulties
  • Increased breathing rate (being breathless)
  • A worsening cough or rasping sound
  • Distress
  • dark, blue-tinged or pale skin
  • skin around their ribs and chest appears to be pulled in and tight making the bones of chests and ribs more visible
  • abnormal drowsiness and sleepiness
  • a rapid heartbeat or falling heart rate

Call the emergency services or take them to A&E

Our experience with Croup began with our eldest.  He had a bit of a raised temperature, but nothing bad and then the following morning woke up really upset and frightened.  He was gasping for breath in-between what sounded like barking coughs.  I calmed him down and he was fine. His temperature did still keep coming up that day and the following morning the coughing was back so I took him to the doctor.  They just said it was a virus and recommended Calpol, fluid and rest.  I did explain about the cough, but still were just sent off and there was no mention of Croup.  Our toddler seemed better by the next day, but that night the baby felt a little hot and was a bit snuffly.  His temperature was only a little bit raised, but I still wanted to keep an eye on him.  In the night he woke for his usual feed and was just not right.  I always worried in the past that I wouldn’t know if there was something wrong and wouldn’t recognise the signs, but truly there was no mistaking this.  He was perfectly calm and still able to suck his dummy, but he was really hot and over the course of 10 minutes his breathing was getting louder and louder and he was pulling in his chest under his ribs.  I woke my husband and we called 111 to get some advice.  They got one of the doctors to call us back.  He was having a debate with himself about whether we should be going to hospital or not.  I started to panic and just got really upset about the prospect of anything being really wrong so I just decided to take matters into my own hands and just go to hospital anyway – always the control freak!   Thank goodness we did as when we got there they said we should have called an ambulance.  It was so frightening.  The staff were amazing as they always seem to be at St Georges Tooting.  We were seen straight away and he was given a dose of steroids as well as being put on a nebolizer and giving him oxygen to restore his levels.  The whole way through this he was so calm which was lucky as I think I might have totally lost it if he was in distress.  It was like he knew that they were helping him.  It is just so tough to see your little one in a hospital bed and so sick needing so much support.  I literally do not know how parents of seriously sick children cope.  I think they are amazing.

At one point the registrar called the consultant down as she was worried that he was getting drowsy and that they weren’t seeing enough improvement.  I thought I was going to get sick and they had to get me a bowl.  Typical me always attention seeking…  I managed to pull myself together though.  After a second nebuliser the colour finally started to return to his face so I knew he was improving.  I just wanted to hold him as tight as possible and keep him safe.  We had to stay in hospital for a day to monitor him and before being allowed home I had to promise the doctors I would being him back by calling am ambulance if it started again the next night.  I was of course panicking then at night and two days later we had another midnight dash, but thankfully this was less serious.

Croup is rarely serious or life threatening, but in our son’s case it was.  Thankfully he is fine.  I don’t write this article to scare anyone, but just to make other mums aware of this and to say that sometimes you just have to let your instincts take over and ignore the professionals who in my case were saying its probably fine.  The consultant at the hospital reminded me that they would never be annoyed if someone called an ambulance for a child with breathing difficulties even if it turned out to be nothing so my advice is don’t mess about and err on the side of caution.  I know I am glad that I did.

Kx