Every child coughs from time to time. Usually, the cough is nothing to be concerned about, such as when a child is recovering from a cold. Sometimes, though, the cough is a sign of a serious condition, such as whooping cough, asthma or the croup. If your child’s cough lasts for three weeks or longer, KidsHealth recommends you take him to see his doctor.
When a child has croup, her vocal cords and trachea become inflamed, due a virus. The primary symptom of croup is a loud cough, often compared to a seal’s bark. The coughing typically happens at night and may wake a child up. A child with croup may also have cold-like symptoms and may make a loud noise while inhaling. Croup usually affects children under age 5, but it can happen to older children as well.
You can usually successfully treat croup at home, especially if the case is mild. MedlinePlus recommends sitting with the child in a steamy shower or taking him outside to breathe in the cold air, which will soothe the vocal cords. Moisture helps, so you may want to place a humidifier in his bedroom. Comfort your child and hold him upright to calm the coughing and to help him to breathe, according to MayoClinic.com.
Other Treatment Options
In some cases, medicine may be needed to treat croup. If the case is severe, your doctor may prescribe epinephrine to help open her airways, according to KidsHealth. A corticosteroid may also reduce swelling in the airways. You may also want to give your child a pain reliever and fever reducer. Severe cases of croup may mean that your child has to spend time in the hospital, in an oxygen tent. Some children may need to be intubated if their airways become too blocked.
Preventing the Croup
You can help prevent croup by washing your child’s hands often. Also, wash your own hands frequently. Don’t send your child to school or daycare if he is sick. Try to keep him away from other children with respiratory infections. You can also protect your child from the more severe forms of croup by keeping his vaccinations up to date. The diphtheria, measles and HiB vaccines all can help protect against the more dangerous forms of croup, according to MayoClinic.com.
Other Causes of Coughing
Coughing does not necessarily mean croup. If your child coughs, but it is not the distinct barky cough of croup, he could have any number of other infections. A cough with wheezing could be caused by asthma, bronchiolitis, or another viral infection, according to KidsHealth. Pertussis, or whooping cough, causes a string of coughs, followed by a sharp intake of breath. Fortunately, there is a vaccine to protect against pertussis. Irritants, such as smoke or air pollution, can also cause a child to cough.