What causes croup?
That barking, hacking cough that keeps you all awake can be treated.
Croup is an infection that often comes after a child has a bad cold or flu in the upper respiratory tract. Boys are most likely to suffer from the illness, and it usually strikes between the ages of three months and five years. It’s more common in winter, and tends to spread when children spend time in groups, for example in crèche.
Allergies or the inhalation of a foreign body can also cause croup, as can reflux. Parainfluenza viruses are the cause of croup 75% of the time, but RSV, measles, adenovirus and influenza can all cause the same symptoms.
What are the symptoms?
- Croup is an acute viral inflammation of the upper and lower respiratory tracts, and can even affect the lungs themselves.
- The obstruction that results in the main symptoms is caused by swelling and inflammation in the area immediately around the vocal chords.
- This obstruction results in difficult breathing, and the increased effort required for breathing tires the ill child.
When to see a doctor
- Croup is usually preceded by two or three days of an upper respiratory tract infection (like a cold or flu). A barking, often spasmodic, cough and hoarseness develop.
- Gagging and vomiting may occur with the coughing.
- Low-grade fever is common, but often fever of 38°C to 40°C is associated with the onset of croup.
- Croup often strikes in the middle of the night. The child wakes up with breathing difficulties and rapid breathing, using all chest muscles.
A doctor should be consulted promptly when a child develops any of the signs of croup, especially when a barking cough sets in and you hear a rough, raspy, high-pitched sound when the child breathes in. It is an emergency requiring immediate medical attention if:
The child’s breathing difficulties are severe.
The skin, fingernails or lips turn blue or grey.
Abnormally fast shallow breathing develops (more than 60 breaths a minute).
The child can’t seem to get enough air.
He makes a rasping sound when breathing both out and in.
He is very hot.
He appears very sick.
He drools saliva, being unable to swallow.
He needs to lean forward with the mouth open to breathe.