Sunday, May 27, 2012

Croup - scary but rarely dangerous.

Human Para-Influenza virus
With the change of seasons comes a spike in viral infections. Currently in Oz, especially in the West, we are seeing some significantly low temperatures heralding the real onset of the winter months: but being such a brilliant place, at least we know that we will still get some wonderful weather on most days!

But with winter come those infectious diseases that are "stirred up and spread around" in our schools, Kinders and child care centres, and then brought home to be shared with the rest of the family. One of those infections caused by the LTB virus (proper name of laryngo-tracheo-bronchitis virus) or a para-influenza virus can lead to sore throats, coughs and in little children, Croup!

Croup is one of those illnesses whose "bark is worse than it's bite", but in little children under five and even more so in babies, listening to them cough and wheeze can be very distressing and even frightening for both child and parent. We adults can have a sore throat and cough and easily put up with the swelling that results in our larynx without too many difficulties, but the smaller the patient the more significant that swelling becomes, and in tiny tots, small swelling can have big consequences.

The good news is that nearly all children with croup can be happily treated at home: all that's required are simple measures and lots of cuddles and reassurance. The onset is usually the same as with a normal cold - they're a "bit off" and then they feel hot and may complain of a sore throat. It's when the sun goes down that things can start to warm up with perhaps a spike in temperature and the onset of a barking cough. Paracetamol in the appropriate dosage can ease the temperature, help relieve the discomfort and might allow child and parent to get some sleep. During the day the child often "bounces back", but when the sun goes down again, the symptoms may recur. The body's immune system will deal with the infection and it will settle down of its own accord in 2 or 3 days.

For those with more severe symptoms, these children may require a Steroid Syrup to help reduce the swelling in the Larynx in order that they can breath more easily. Antibiotics will make no difference to the illness as antibiotics have no place in the treatment of viral infections. If your child has some of the following symptoms, then they should be seen by a Doctor:

  • They make noisy, high-pitched sound when BREATHING IN (stridor)
  • They drool or have difficulty swallowing
  • They become irritable
  • If they are obviously struggling to breathe
  • If the skin goes blue/grey around the nose, mouth or fingernails
  • Has a fever of 39.5 or higher
The treating Doctor will be able to make the diagnosis after examining your child and further investigations are not usually needed. If the Stridor is severe, they may admit the baby to give them humidified oxygen and medication until the swelling has settled, but most will be allowed home on medication.

Whilst the scientist haven't found any obvious benefit from "Humidifiers" at home, in my experience they do seem to make the child more comfortable - but do make sure that they are safe and away from little hands! But in the end it's Mums magic that is probably the best, with lots of cuddles and love: come to think of it, most Dads are pretty d*mned good at that too.
Ampersands & angle brackets need to be encoded.

1 comment:

Mariodacatsmom said...

I had thought the croup when via the horse and buggy, so I was very surprised to see an article in the newspaper recently talking about croup. It is a scary sound to listen to someone literally gasping for each breath.