Croup season approaches


This time of year, many kids may get a bad cough. And for some children, it's a sign of something worse than a cold. Croup cases are on the rise here in Indiana.

Doctors say croup is common this time of year, and it can be very scary for parents and their kids if it gets serious.

Caused by a virus that settles in the top of the throat and upper airway, croup causes inflammation. So you may not know your child has it right away. They may have a bit of a runny nose, possibly a low grade fever. But then croup becomes apparent when a very distinctive cough comes on.

"The child, in the evening and night time, will develop a deep, deep seal barking cough," said Dr. P.J. Whalen of Peyton Manning Children's Hospital, who describes the sound as "a much worse cough than you've probably ever heard before.  A small child will make such a deep barking cough, you can't believe it's your child."

Croup affects infants to about six years old. The smaller the child, the more serious the cough because of their smaller airway. If the child has a more severe case, the swelling in the throat gets bad enough where it becomes hard to catch a breath.

If they're really struggling and gasping for air, you need to take your child for an emergency visit to get breathing treatments.

If your child has a milder case, more typical in older children, you can calm the cough at home.

"The first thing we do is expose them to moist or cold air," said Dr. Whalen. "Steam up the shower. Don't get in, but stay in the steamy moisture. It can soothe the throat. And then, very cold air exposure. If it's cold outside in the evening, bundle up, and step outside on the porch with your child and see if that cold air helps calm down the breathing."

A cool mist humidifier also helps, if your child's symptoms are mild enough. The cough should last about a week or so.