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Toddler Cough: What Is Croup?

This morning at 4am, we had our first real health scare with our son where we raced to the emergency room – even the antibiotic allergy rash didn’t compare. He woke up with a horrible, sudden cough. He was unable to breathe or speak and cried that it hurt. He wheezed and my heart froze with fear.  I’m an asthmatic and whenever the lungs are involved, I tend to be jumpy and frightened. I know how terrifying not being able to breathe can be and as I threw on yoga pants and found my shoes, I held Harrison and tried to keep my voice calm. My husband sat in the backseat with Harry as I raced through the dark to the emergency room (I’m a much faster driver than he is!) and I could hear the wheeze over the Christmas music he requested.

By the time we got into the ER, the cough was a little more calm and didn’t sound so much like he was struggling to breathe. He coughed for the nurses and doctors and four hours later, we were released after a diagnosis of croup and dose of prednisone. I’m so thankful my small boy is already on the mend and it’s nothing more serious. (You can imagine my terror that we’d be walking out with an asthma diagnosis, which is one of my biggest fears as a parent.) While I’ve heard of croup, I’ve never actually experienced it. So I ran home to search everything I could find about the illness:

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    Click through for symptoms and treatments of croup in toddlers.
  • What causes croup? 2 of 12
    What causes croup?
    Croup is caused by a virus that causes inflamation in the upper respiratory system. The voice box, windpipe, and breathing tubes inflame and restrict, making it hard to breathe. While it is scary sounding, it is usually not severe.
    Source: WebMD
  • What are the symptoms? 3 of 12
    What are the symptoms?
    Croup has a "barking cough" that is typically a fast onset with no fever. It is often worse at night or during exercise.
  • Stridor (aka the wheeze) 4 of 12
    Stridor (aka the wheeze)
    Stridor is the high pitched wheeze between barking coughs. It sounds horrible and scary, but it is normal.
    Source: kidshealth.org
  • Is croup contagious? 5 of 12
    Is croup contagious?
    Croup itself is not contagious, but the various viruses that can cause croup are contagious.
    Source: WebMD
  • How do they diagnose croup? 6 of 12
    How do they diagnose croup?
    Croup has a signature "barking cough" and wheeze. A pulse oximeter may be placed on her finger or toe to make sure oxygen is reaching the blood stream. A neck xray may be done to rule out any other problems.
    Source: WebMD
    Source: kidshealth.org
  • Should we see a doctor? 7 of 12
    Should we see a doctor?
    If an attack doesn't stop after 30 minutes of calming your child or trying humidity and cold, then call the doctor. Of course, if the child is having severe trouble breathing, don't hesitate to call 911.
    Source: WebMD
  • How long does croup last? 8 of 12
    How long does croup last?
    Viral croup usually lasts 3-7 days.
    Source: kidshealth.org
  • Humidity helps 9 of 12
    Humidity helps
    Breathing moist air, like in a steamy shower or a humidifier, seems to help an attack.
    Source: WebMD
  • Get him outside in the cold air 10 of 12
    Get him outside in the cold air
    Cold air seems to help a croup cough settle. Since it is April and warm here, our ER nurse suggested we put his head in the refrigerator!
    Source: kidshealth.org
  • Is there medicine to treat it? 11 of 12
    Is there medicine to treat it?
    Most croup can be treated with home remedies,such as humidity and cool air. A doctor may prescribe steroid medicine (like prednisone) or breathing treatments to help reduce inflammation.
    Source: kidshealth.org
  • What are the risks of croup? 12 of 12
    What are the risks of croup?
    Croup rarely carries complications. Occasionally, dehydration can happen simply because the child doesn't feel well. Also, further infection can occur.
    Source: kidshealth.org

images: istockphoto

Source: kidshealth.org
Source: WebMD

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Beth Anne writes words & takes pictures at Okay, BA! You can also find her on the Twitters & Facebook.

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