Combatting Croup


Croup – it's rough. It creeps up on your poor, unsuspecting child like a ninja quietly ninja'ing in the night. My kids are ninjago mad in case you couldn't tell. Your kid can seem totally fine by day – and then night time hits - and boom – before you know it your child is distressed, freaking out, coughing horrifically, struggling to breath well, and needing a lot of care and attention.

What exactly is croup?

Croup is caused by a viral infection of the larynx (voice box) and the breathing passages of the upper chest. It occurs most commonly in children three months to three years old and is characterised by a cough that sounds harsh, loud, barking and ringing. The child is often hoarse and because of the swelling caused by the infection, the breathing passages become more narrow and the child breathes rapidly, forcefully and noisily as air moves through the constriction.

The first time my oldest son had croup I didn't know what to do other than to try and cuddle and console him, sitting him up and trying to calm him down. Luckily for him, his Dad used to have quite severe croup as a child, with many hospital visits because of it, so he knew what to do.

The first thing he did, while I was consoling my son, was to turn the shower on, to get a good steam up. We then went and sat with him in the bathroom while the steam did it's thing – enabling him to breath a little easier. If you do this, please be mindful that steam can be dangerous, so make sure you check the temperature of the water – we have a governor on our hot water system which doesn't allow it to go over 50 degrees, meaning the steam does not get as hot as some places would – exercise common sense! Had a shower not have been accessible we would've grabbed a bowl, filled it with hot (not boiling) water and a couple drops of eucalyptus essential oil, put a towel over his head and got him to breath in the steam.

We also got out the trusty rawleighs, an old school vapour balm, and rubbed this on his chest to help ease the breathing. It was scary, because you never want to see your child unwell and distressed, but when we were satisfied that he was doing okay, we got him back to sleep in our bed and monitored him during the night. The cough, which came on suddenly around 10.30 pm, can only really be described as a bark; a harsh, loud, hoarse bark. If you've heard it before, you'll know exactly what I mean.

With three young sons, I knew that this was something that we'd likely encounter again, so I did some investigation of my own from reading widely and talking to mothers and our homeopath who has helped with basically every single health thing we've come across, and came up with a plan of attack for when it happened again. And it has, and not just with him, with our other two as well.

The tricky thing, is that there usually hasn't been any warning that croup is about to strike, it comes on rapidly, but I've learned to keep the key essentials near their bedrooms to be able to treat them quickly. Firstly, I get out the aconite homeopathic remedy (I use a 30c, and you can find this at your local homeopath or health shop), this one is the first in the triad to try, and fits the symptoms of the very first stages of croup with a dry, raspy cough just developing. The other symptoms that will confirm that this is the one to try is fear, anxiety and restlessness (tick), the symptoms have appeared suddenly (tick), and when sitting in the bed there is grasping of the throat (tick). I've found that when I use this the boys calm down virtually instantly. Then I get out the vaporiser and add in some eucalyptus essential oil, or a sinus clear blend, and get that cranking in the bedroom. A bit of winter blues balm on the chest is also part of the plan, and between all that, the rest of the night is actually okay. (I like the little innoscents vapour rub balm it's a lovely smelling balm that is made using 100% natural and organic ingredients, no petro chemicals, parabens or nasties, just good stuff).

You may have noticed I haven't discussed the shower again for the steam trick, I have found the vaporiser far more effective. I would, though, recommend giving it a go if you don't have a vaporiser, it worked for us before we had a vaporiser.

I've found so far, with all three of my sons that croup tends to be problematic prior to midnight, and then the rest of the night seems to be okay. The cough then seems to disappear, until the next night, but by this stage it has progressed a bit. Because we're anticipating it, the vaporiser and vapour rub will already be in use, and the next remedy will be out, at the ready to use if needed.

Spongia (30c) is the next remedy in the trio that works well. The cough has usually progressed to a loud, hoarse and raspy sounding cough, kind of like the sound of a saw sawing wood.

The third remedy to use, which is usually indicated in the later stages of croup is Hepar Sulph. When the cough has more of a rattling sound and the cough is brought on by deep breathing.

If you've ever had a child with croup, you'll understand what I mean about the stages. Much like a cold has different stages as it progresses, croup does too. I have found it doesn't usually last more than a few days, though I've heard of cases lasting around a week.

A few key things to take note of here.

1 – this is my personal experience with Croup. I am sharing what I have found works well for me and my three young sons. We have managed to avoid any trips to hospital so far, but would not hesitate to go if we felt it necessary.

2 – You know your child better than anyone, if you are concerned please seek medical attention. Especially in younger babies where their airways are smaller and can close up faster than older children.

According to the kids health website NZ – Croup is usually a mild illness but can quickly become serious, and advises to seek medical help if need be.

More information from the kids health website New Zealand:

If your child has any of the following, go to a doctor or the nearest hospital straight away:

  • there is stridor (a harsh noise heard when breathing in) when your child is calm and not upset
  • you are worried your child is having increasing difficulty with their breathing
  • your child becomes persistently upset and can't be consoled
  • your child has additional signs of ill health (such as pale colour, a very high temperature, cool or clammy hands and feet, or dribbling)
  • you become concerned for any other reason
Dial 111 within New Zealand (use the appropriate emergency number in other countries) and ask for urgent medical help if your child has any of the following:

  • becomes blue
  • becomes pale or blue after a coughing spell
  • has extreme difficulty breathing
  • there is a change in their behaviour (for example, they become drowsy, agitated or delirious)
  • has pauses in breathing
In babies less than 6 months of age, or in children older than 6 years, croup is less common. There could be another reason for their symptoms and therefore review by your family doctor is necessary. In some cases a referral to a paediatrician (a specialist in children's health) or ENT (ear, nose and throat) specialist may be required.

So there we go, my tips for combatting croup. Wishing you relatively plain sailing if you have croup in your household!

If your Tamariki get croup, what tips and tricks do you use?

Yours in health, the HH


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