Hearing your little one struggling for breath is so upsetting… especially when you don’t know the cause. Find out what could be clogging up his airways
It’s at this time of year that the C-word is most likely to rear its ugly head. Croup is an infection that attacks the voice box and the airway to your child’s lungs, which strikes mainly in winter and early spring.It usually affects children between 6 months and 3 years old. “It’s more severe in children under 3 because their airways are narrowest,” says Justin Daniels, consultant paediatrician at Great Ormond Street and North Middlesex hospitals.“Most children who get croup only get it once, but if your child gets it more often, he’ll grow out of it as he matures and his airways becomes larger,” Justin says.
“Unfortunately, there’s no way to prevent your little one getting it but it’s a good idea to wash your hands frequently.” How do I know if it’s croup?“Croup is known for its ‘seal-like’ barking cough and usually comes hand in hand with a rasping sound when breathing in,” says Justin. “And your little one may also have a cold with a stuffy or runny nose and a mild temperature.” Although croup is undeniably scary while it lasts, and much worse at night-time, it’s only usually bad for one to three days. But the cold symptoms can carry on longer.When should I be worried?“As your child’s airways become swollen and inflamed, breathing may become more difficult for him,” says Justin. “You might notice that as he makes more effort to take breaths, he’ll start to use more muscles and you may see the soft tissues between his neck and ribs pull inwards,” adds Justin. If your little one isn’t eating and his breathing becomes faster, he has difficulty swallowing and starts to drool or becomes agitated, drowsy or blue, seek medical help immediately.Treat it
Talk to your GP or NHS Direct (0845 4647, www.nhsdirect.nhs.uk) for advice – most mild cases don’t need medical treatment and clear up on their own. If you’re up in the night with your little one with a bad cough, try to stay calm. Sit your child up to help him breathe more easily.Make sure you avoid smoky atmospheres and encourage your little one to drink between coughing to prevent dehydration. “Putting your child in the bathroom with the hot taps running to create a steamy atmosphere could help, but never put his head over a hot bowl of water as this often results in an accident,” advises Justin. In very extreme cases, children may need to be hospitalised with croup. “If this is the case, your child will probably be given oxygen and he may also be given a single dose of steroids to help clear up the inflammation,” says Justin.Mum’s story“When Oliver was 9 months, he caught a cold and cough, which turned into a barking cough. He was finding it hard to breathe so we took him to casualty where he was given steroids and an inhaler for croup. He’s 3 now and tends to get croup when he’s got a cold, so we use a steam machine and try to catch it as early as possible. We always reassure him it will pass in time, and only have to use the steroids and inhalers if it gets really bad,” said Frankie Gray, 31, from Sussex, mum to Oliver, 3, and Tobias, 5 months.Read more…
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