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Croup is the infantile equivalent of laryngitis - a condition where the voicebox and airways swell up making breathing difficult.

Croup is usually caused by a virus and affects children between six months and three years old.

Croup is easily distinguished by a nasty sounding bark-like cough. It can be disturbing to hear this sound coming from your child but it usually sounds a lot worse than it actually is!

Alongside the cough, other symptoms may include a high temperature, sore throat, runny nose and a high pitched rasping sound when breathing. Your child may experience all of these symptoms or just the cough alone.

If you suspect your baby has croup you should go to the doctor. Once diagnosed, the doctor may prescribe a steroid which will help to reduce the swelling in the airways.

Because of the discomfort in the throat your baby may lose its appetite but it is important to keep your baby hydrated. Feed lots of milk or water and for children eating solid foods, offer juice or warmed soup.

If your baby has a fever (temperature over 38 degrees Celcius) you can offer liquid paracetamol. Read the dosage instructions carefully. Cough medicines will not help to treat croup so do not try offering your baby medicines of this sort.

Try to keep your baby relaxed and soothed by giving lots of kisses and cuddles. If your baby is in distress and crying lots it may worsen the condition.

The symptoms of croup will usually last no longer than six days. If you follow doctors advice on how to treat the illness your baby should recover fairly quickly. Remember babies can contract croup more than once but once you have heard the barking cough once it is quite easy to recognise if it were to occur again.

In severe cases of croup your baby may really struggle to breathe. You should phone an ambulance immediately if your baby is having severe breathing difficulties. Look out for a high pitched rasping sound, a blue tinge to the lips and face, a drawn-in neck and ribcage and if your baby suddenly becomes very sleepy.

September 2012
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