Croup in Babies: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment and More

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Newborn babies are delicate, and they need all kinds of protection. As parents, our biggest worry is keeping our little ones away from germs, infections, and illnesses. We want them to grow up happy, healthy, and strong. But, it’s not possible to keep them away from all illnesses, right? There are some common issues that almost all babies might face, and actually, that helps to strengthen their immune systems.

If your little one has fallen sick, check for these symptoms: does he have an extremely deep and hoarse cough, heavy breathing, or crowing noise while inhaling? These may also be accompanied by mild fever. If you are noticing these symptoms in your child, it is possible that he may have croup.

At first, the thought of croup can seem quite scary and worrisome for parents, but it is important to know that it can be treated, especially if caught early on. There are more than 1 million cases of croup reported in India per year.

Video: Croup in Babies – Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Read on for some more information on this condition.

What Is Croup?

Croup, also known as laryngotracheobronchitis, is a viral infection that affects the upper airway tract in babies, blocking proper breathing, and causing a distinctive bark-like cough. Croup in babies causes the windpipe and voice box to swell, which makes it difficult for the baby to breathe. Croup in babies under 3 months occurs mostly in winters and can be recognised as the cough sounds worse than it should.

It is important for parents of newborn children to be informed about causes, treatments and symptoms, as the occurrence of croup in babies under 6 months is common. Croup does not occur frequently in older kids, as the size of their windpipe increases with age and physical development over the years.

There are two types of croup – viral and spasmodic. Viral croup is the more common type and is caused due to a virus known as human parainfluenza virus (HPIV). Spasmodic croup is caused due to an allergy or the reflux of the stomach.

What Are the Causes of Croup?

It is vital for parents to understand what causes croup in children, so as to take appropriate precautions to avert it.

1. Viral Infection

The most common cause of croup are viruses, but it can also be caused by allergies, bacteria, and reflux from the tummy. There are multiple viruses that cause croup, but the most common virus is called the parainfluenza virus. Some other viruses that may cause croup include respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), influenza virus, measles, adenovirus, and enteroviruses.

2. Contact With an Infected Person

A baby may also contract the disease if he comes in contact with another child or adult who is infected by the causative virus. Since it is a respiratory infection, it is mostly contagious.

Common Signs and Symptoms of Croup

Croup starts like any other cold or cough, and that’s why, initially, it may be slightly difficult to differentiate and identify. However, soon, what looks like a normal stuffy or runny nose and a fever, may turn out to be something more severe. The most common signs and symptoms of croup are:

  1. Runny nose
  2. Chest congestion
  3. Hoarse cough
  4. A cough that develops into a “seal’s bark” (also known as croup barking cough)
  5. Swollen lymph nodes
  6. Eye redness
  7. Rashes
  8. Fever
  9. Stridor (a high-pitched sound that is mostly noticed as the child breathes in or out)

Symptoms of the common cold can either precede or linger after croup. There are also some signs that are indicative of the severity of the condition and require immediate medical attention. These symptoms are of the following types:

  1. If the baby’s airway is obstructed, he will look worried and disturbed, and won’t show interest in playing or doing other activities; he might constantly try to get air.
  2. He will not be able to sleep or lie down and will constantly sit up and cough.
  3. The dent right above the breastbone will cave with each breath.

Can Croup Be Contagious?

Yes, it can be. A child can catch the causative virus through direct contact with someone who has been infected, through droplets dispersed into the air when the infected child or adult coughs. Secretions from an infected person can be contagious, too, and that’s why proper precautionary measures must always be taken. It is also wise to ensure that your baby’s hygiene is well-maintained at all times.

How Long Does Croup Take to Go Away?

This is a common question that plagues parents. Croup usually lasts for 3 to 7 days, but there is a possibility that it can last for up to 2 weeks, depending on the severity. It generally peaks on the 2nd or 3rd night, and during this time, you should engage in ways to calm and relieve your baby. The symptoms of cold and flu might linger and can leave the baby and you, tired.

How Is Croup Diagnosed?

Physical examination is the most common method to diagnose croup. Doctors observe the child’s breathing and use a stethoscope to examine it, along with the child’s throat. X-rays are also conducted, to rule out the possibility of any other disease or condition. Sometimes, when an in-clinic visit is not possible, the doctor may listen to the breathing and cough over the phone, for the right diagnosis.

What Is the Treatment for Croup?

Treatment of croup in babies depends on multiple parameters, such as the child’s overall health and well-being, medical history, age, the extent of and seriousness of the disease, as well as the child’s tolerance to allergies to particular medicines.

To understand how to treat croup cough in babies, it is important you are equipped with prerequisite knowledge. In case the infection is severe, hospitalisation may be considered, especially if your child has to be monitored at all times.

There are four types of medical treatments that can be followed to treat croup:

  1. Medicines are given through nebulisation to open the airway and increase the inflow and outflow of air.
  2. Injecting medication to reduce the swelling of the airways.
  3. Use of steroid, oral or through the mouth medication to reduce the swelling.
  4. In some instances, a breathing tube is inserted into the child’s windpipe.

Are There Home Remedies to Ease the Symptoms of Croup?

Yes – a majority of croup cases can be treated at home by using natural remedies. Some home remedies for croup in babies include:

  1. Keep your child calm. Crying and agitation can only lead to an increase in the obstruction of the airway and result in complications. Croup can frighten a small child, and crying can lead to worsening the stridor (the harsh sound). Sit your baby upright in your lap, sing soft lullabies, and read to him. Breastfeeding also acts as a pacifier in such a situation.
  2. Humidity and steam can help in clearing the air passages and easing the breathing process. Steam up your bathroom, and sit with your baby in your lap. There should be an immediate improvement in the next 10 to 15 minutes.
  3. Use a cool-mist humidifier or vaporiser, for inhalation of the cool mist. Once you let the mist near the baby to promote easy breathing, you should see an improvement. You can use a hot vaporiser, too, but it should not be brought too close to the baby.
  4. Consult a doctor for treating fever.
  5. Finally, offer fluids and encourage rest at all times.

In case your baby’s cough improves during the day, but comes back at night, it is time to visit a doctor. Additionally, it is always best to consult your paediatrician before administering any home remedies.

Can Croup Be Prevented?

There is no current vaccination for croup. However, avoiding exposure to contaminated objects and contagious sneezing and coughing can prevent croup. Also maintain your baby’s hygiene at all times, especially during flu or common cold season.

When Should You Call a Doctor?

If you are concerned that your child’s croup is not improving, despite using home remedies, it’s time to call a doctor. Additionally, if you see your baby turning breathless or pale, it’s time to take him to the emergency room.

Croup can be treated at home, but you must take precautions to guard your baby against the infection. Babies tend to feel uneasy when affected, so ensure that they stay healthy, and are monitored at all times.

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