Croup is No Joke!

Fresh Eucalyptus in the shower, great for cold season
This week I had one of the scariest moments of my life as a mother. Chunka got a little cold and had a runny nose on Tuesday. On Wednesday I was waiting for the babysitter to call and say that we needed to pick her up because she had a fever or cough or her nose was running too much. When I got home from work I heard her breathing and her barking cough, I knew that she had croup.  I called the pediatrician's office to make an appointment for the morning and then steamed up the bathroom to hang out my little sicky in as close to a sauna as I could make it.

Chunka surprisingly slept through the night. I heard her barking cough a couple times but by the time I got to her she would have fallen back asleep.  When I woke to get ready for her, I went in and checked on her. She was sound asleep with her bump straight up in the air, breathing noisily, but not scarily gasping for breath. She and Munchkie were still sound asleep when I had to go in to wake them up for school. I woke up Munchkie, and heard a terrible noise from the other side of the room. Chunka was standing in her crib, gripping the railing with a terrified look on her face and gasping for air. While yelling for the shower to be turned on as hot as it could go I scooped Chunka up, took her pajamas off as fast as I could and went into the bathroom. The poor baby was burning up,her whole body was shaking and she clung to me, struggling to breathe. She couldn't talk, when she tried to cry it just got worse. I tried to give her medicine, but she wasn't able to swallow. We sat in the steamy bathroom clinging to each other, crying until she started to feel a little bit better. Once the steam started to help she was able to swallow some Motrin to help her fever come down. I sat there assessing, thinking, trying to reason through my assessment and my emotions. It is the only time in my time as a mother so far that I have considered calling 911. I sat there and tried to figure out what the best move for my child was, to call 911, take her to the hospital or wait for the doctor's office to open. In the end I decided to wait for the doctor's office because she seemed to be doing a little better and I had to go to work. I cried and cried as I had to leave for work (of course it was a day that there was absolutely no one who could cover for me at work) with instructions on what to do and to take her to the doctor's as soon as possible. I cried the whole way to work, and could barely keep it together to call the office to get an earlier appointment. Thankfully Chunka made it to the doctor's office early, started on steroids and was on the road to recovery in no time.

Croup is no joke. I'm a pediatric nurse. I knew what to do. And I've never been more scared in my life. As I watched my little baby gasp for breath I thanked God for modern medicine. I thanked God that I could take her to the doctor for a dose of steroids that would reduce the inflammation, allowing her to breathe better. I thanked God as I sat crying in my steamy bathroom that I was a nurse, knew what to look for, and knew how to help her.

The things to look for:

  • Stridor - high pitched wheezing-like sound when they are breathing in
  • Retractions - the sinking in of the skin between their ribs, just under their rubs and at the base of their neck
  • Barky cough - it sounds like a seal or a dog barking when they cough
  • Belly breathing - with each breath, their belly is really going in and out
  • Not being able to swallow, or letting drool fall out of the mouth (especially in older kids who should be able to swallow their saliva)
  • All of the above gets worse when they cry
What to do:
  • Call your doctor - depending on how bad it is, you might need steroids or special nebulization treatments
  • Steamy bathroom - close the door, turn the shower on hot hot hot and just stand in there breathing the steam for at least 15 minutes
  • Cold air - after the steam, go outside to breathe in some fresh, cold air
  • Have a cool mist humidifier in the child's room (that you clean as instructed)
  • Warm (not hot!) liquids (apple juice, water)
  • Honey if over a year old
  • Plenty of fluids, fever, breathing heavily and coughing all use up more fluids than we usually use
  • Keep the fever down - when the fever rises, the breathing often gets worse
Here is a video with the sounds of croup - 

(To be honest, I didn't watch the whole video, only the first minute or so to make sure that it sounded like croup)

If your child sounds like this don't mess around. Don't wait and see. Take action. Children who are old enough to talk have said that they felt like they were going to die because they could not take a breath. Imagine how scary that is if you can't tell anyone how you feel?

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