Croup is always identified by that distinctive seal-like barking cough, and is easy to come by for young kids in the fall or winter months. Croup happens when the windpipe and vocal cords become inflamed, usually from a viral respiratory infection, making it difficult to breathe, and croup attacks usually come at night. During the day, the child may have stridor, or noisy, raspy breathing, which can be a good warning that a croup coughing attack is coming that night.
A croup attack can be really scary for both the child and the parent as the child fights to breathe between barking coughs. Fortunately, you can ease a croup attack quickly and effectively with a few simple actions.
Ease Croup Symptoms
First, take the child into a steamy bathroom. Turn the shower on hot to produce steam that will loosen the windpipe and help it relax while hydrating any dried mucous in the throat thus allowing it to be cleared. Stay in the steam for 15-25 minutes, or until the child is breathing easily again.
Second, soothe the child. When this would happen to my children when they were younger, I would sit with them on my lap while perched on the edge of the tub, the shower curtain draped behind us to direct the steam, rocking and crooning soothingly. Fear and anxiety, though understandable, make the croup experience worse because they tighten up the throat. Control your own fear and project calm. Reassure the child that she will be ok and that you are there to take care of her until she is better. Stay with her until the attack is over and she is ready to go back to bed.
Third, crack a window. Croup responds best to cool steam, and it usually happens during the cooler months, so cracking a window or even stepping outside for a few minutes might help break the coughing cycle. Usually I find that the steam itself is enough to end the attack, but stepping outside can be very effective, too.
If you suspect your child is heading for a croupy night, you can take some steps to prevent or avoid the worst of it. You can also these strategies after calming a croup attack to prevent another one that night and in the following nights.
First, use a cool mist humidifier. Keep the air moist in your child’s room to keep her throat lubricated and moist. I like to use an ultrasonic vaporizer because it purifies the water as it works.
Second, add aromatherapy. Fill the little dish that comes with the humidifier with clean water and add 2-3 drops of eucalyptus essential oil. Set it atop the steam vent so that the scent diffuses through the room with the mist. Eucalyptus oil has astringent properties which can help clear air passages and fight infections. Rubbed directly on the soles of the feet, eucalyptus essential oil can calm any coughing attack – even a croupy cough.
Third, offer homeopathic remedies. The first remedy to use is Aconite. Dissolve in water and offer one dose at the onset of croup, when the cough is dry, loud, and barking. Offer a second dose in an hour if symptoms persist. If the croup progresses into an attack, dissolve homeopathic Spongia Tosta in water and offer 1 teaspoon. If, once past the croup seal-bark stage, the cough turns loose and rattling, try a dose of Hepar Sulph to clear it out. Here are instructions on how to take homeopathic remedies.