Before I had children I had never heard of Croup, in fact I hadn’t experienced it as a mother until Amelie was around 22 months old. Croup is a condition that affects the windpipe, the voice box and airways to the lungs. When children get croup they have a distinctive barking cough that sounds a bit like a seal, they make an awful sound when they breathe in and out as their little airway is blocked, also their voice tends to sound very horse.
The first time Amelie had croup I was terrified, I had read up on how to spot meningitis, sepsis, mumps, chicken pox etc but croup does not cause a rash or swelling to the face so I had no idea what was wrong. Being a first time mum I was scared, it was the middle of the night and Amelie was coughing horrendously but sounding like a barking seal. She was limp, having trouble breathing and looked very grey, I called 111 to which they diagnosed croup and told me to take her into the bathroom, turn on the shower to the hottest setting and sit her in the room for around 20 minutes so the steam could help with her breathing. Unfortunately this did nothing for her and I stayed up with her all night holding her upright. We took her to the doctors the next day and she was given steroids to assist with her breathing.
From then, Amelie has had croup around 4 more times. When Charlie arrived he suffered the same, I was extremely panicky as he was only 6 months old when he contracted it. He was very poorly and ended up in A&E during the night, he was given steroids and sent home. As time went on and after phoning 111 numerous times worrying that something sinister was happening to my children I began to calm down and find my own ways of dealing with it.
When it is the dead of the night, the world around you is silent, the nearest A&E department is a 30 minute drive away you feel completely helpless. There are a couple of things that have helped me when I’m feeling like that and one of the children is suffering with croup.
The above is a V shaped pillow that has been a life saver for me and my children. This one is by Slumberdown from Tesco and is £10. Charlie currently has croup and as soon as I heard the barky cough I propped him up on this pillow in my bed, that position helped straight away. I’m one of those worry wart mothers that has her children in bed with her when they are poorly just to keep an eye on them.
Keeping Charlie upright helps with his breathing, I used to sit up myself and hold him upright all night long when he was tiny. Now he is that bit older there is no reason he can’t be propped up and it helps immensely.
The doctors that I have seen recommended the steam room treatment but this has not worked with either of my children, it may work for others though so don’t rule that one out. But you have to make sure the bathroom is so steamed up you can’t see your hand in front of your face.
Children’s vapour rub has also worked well, I apply this to the chest area and sometimes the back, just between the shoulder blades. I did have a vapour plugin but found it to be useless so went back to applying this as I know it helps. Again this one is from Tesco and is so cheap it is always in my medical kit.
The supermarkets now do a vapour bubble bath especially for children, I’ve used the Asda one but didn’t find it to be very strong, however it may work for others.
Although croup symptoms only last for a few days they can last up to two weeks in some cases. At the moment the weather in Devon is bitter cold so when we go on the school run in the morning I wrap Charlie up with lots of layers, thick warm coat and a hat. He is sat in his thick Quinny Buzz cosytoes so I know he is kept warm as he tends to be freezing when he has croup. The cold air plays havoc with his cough so I tend to stay in during this time when his croup is really bad.
Apart from the above, I just try to remain calm during the night when I’m terrified he will stop breathing, if something awful happens I will ring 999. I will always go to the doctor if it doesn’t sit right with me, you know your own child and when something just doesn’t feel right.
Before bed I dose Charlie up with calpol (the recommended dose for his age group), put the vapour rub on, lay him upright on the V pillow and await for him to call me or come running into my bed when he needs me. For now it is just a case of riding it out until this eases.
We are on day 4 and the barking has stopped but Charlie is left with an awful chesty cough and a cold, I will be booking an appointment to have his chest checked as this time of year can be horrendous for chest infections.
UPDATE: I just wanted to update this post purely because it has been a couple of years now and I’m sorry to say Charlie has not grown out of it. Croup still rears its ugly head at this time of year, however now we are a good way down the line I am more aware of his symptoms, therefore don’t get quite so panicked.
Charlie usually starts out with a high temperature and a cold, this quickly turns into the barky seal cough I am familiar with. When an episode happens I literally stay awake all night holding Charlie in my arms like a little newborn. This is extremely exhausting as he is quite a hefty 5 (nearly 6) year old, but I find keeping him upright really helps plus he only wants to sleep on me when he has croup.
I dose him up with Calpol paracetamol and Calprofen ibuprofen to bring his high temperature down. There isn’t much I can do during the night apart from keep a close eye on him and make sure he is comfortable. I am very aware of his breathing and watch like a hawk to see if his chest is being sucked in with each breath – this is when I start to get worried and ring 111. The best medication for croup is a course of steroids and this is the only thing that will open up his airways fully.
I hope he will grow out of it soon though.