Croup is a common problem seen in growing children. It is usually caused by a viral infection, most often a parainfluenza virus. A child may contract croup by breathing in infected respiratory droplets coughed or sneezed into the air by someone who has the illness.
Croup typically occurs in younger children between 6 months and 3 years of age, and it is not usually a serious issue.
This infection of the upper airway results in swelling around the vocal cords (larynx), windpipe (trachea) and bronchial tubes (bronchi).
The swelling causes the characteristic low-pitched cough, resembling the bark of a seal. The cough is often worse at night and gets aggravated by crying as well as anxiety and agitation. The swelling also causes breathing difficulty that may produce a high-pitched whistling sound.
Apart from coughing and labored breathing, it is common to have a fever and a hoarse voice. Symptoms usually last for three to five days. However, proper healing may take more time.
During this time, some simple home remedies can keep your child feeling more comfortable and help prevent croup from returning.
Note: If your child’s symptoms persist beyond three to five days or worsen, see a doctor immediately. Also, seek immediate medical attention if your child develops symptoms like severe breathing difficult, difficulty swallowing, rapid breathing, rasping sound when inhaling or exhaling (stridor), or dark, blue-tinged skin near the nose, mouth or fingernails.
Here are the top 10 home remedies for croup in children.
1. Warm Steam
One of the best home remedies to relieve symptoms and get rid of croup is warm steam.
Warm steam created from a hot shower helps alleviate congestion and make breathing a bit easier. The warmth of the moisture will also thin the mucus to make it easier to expel.
- Run a hot shower and keep the door shut to prevent steam from escaping.
- Sit with your baby in the steam-filled bathroom. (Do not leave your child in the bathroom alone.)
- Allow your child to inhale the steam for at least 30 minutes.
- Repeat as needed.
2. Moisten the Air
Humid air helps ease breathing, hence you need to increase the level of humidity in your home and especially where your child sleeps.
Moist air can also help with congestion and lessen the intensity of coughing fits.
- Use a humidifier wherever possible in your home and especially in the room where your child sleeps.
- Another option is to place a bowl of hot water in the room to increase the moisture in the air. You can also place a pot of water on the radiator in your child’s room.
Whether you are using a humidifier or a bowl of hot water, be sure to place it in a safe place to prevent accidents.
3. Prevent Dehydration
When your child is suffering from croup, you must try your best to prevent dehydration to reduce breathing problems in your child.
Keeping the body hydrated is very important, as fluids can help thin excess mucus that occurs with croup or other cold and flu viruses.
If your child refuses large amounts of fluids at one time, give smaller amounts more often.
- For small babies, water, breast milk or formula is fine.
- For older children, along with water, soup or frozen fruit pops help a lot.
- Homemade bone broth or light soups made with bone broth are also good.
- Apple juice, lemon juice or herbal teas also provide hydration with an added benefit of fighting the infection as well.
4. Sponge Bath
If your child has a fever, a sponge bath can help bring it down.
A cool water sponge bath will help regulate your child’s body temperature and provide quick relief from a fever. Plus, it will help relax your child and help him or her sleep better.
- Soak a washcloth in room temperature tap water, wring out the excess water and then sponge your child’s armpits, feet, hands and groin. You can give a sponge bath 2 or 3 times a day.
- Also, place a cold, damp washcloth on your baby’s forehead and change it every few minutes to reduce a fever.
- Older children can take a cool water bath or shower.
5. Essential Oil Massage
A gentle chest massage with an essential oil blend can help ease tight muscles and promote relaxation. It will also make breathing easier for your child.
- Mix 10 drops of eucalyptus essential oil in ½ cup of warm, extra-virgin olive oil. Give your child a gentle chest massage with this aromatic oil, especially before bedtime to help him or her sleep better.
- Another option is to mix 10 to 15 drops of oregano oil in 2 tablespoons of jojoba oil. Use this mixture as a chest rub before bedtime to ease coughing while sleeping.
- Also, massaging your child’s feet with the blended oil will promote relaxation.
6. Upright Position
Keeping your child in an upright position can help make breathing easier and relieve congestion to a great extent. On the other hand, lying flat can lead to coughing fits, which will only aggravate the condition.
- Hold your child on your lap or put him or her in a favorite chair or infant seat to help ease breathing difficulties and coughing.
- Also, raising one end of your baby’s bed can help alleviate croup symptoms. You can do this by placing a high pillow under the mattress.