A child who can’t breathe properly is any parent’s nightmare. Add to that a scary, rasping cough and it’s enough to send you over the brink. Croup or laryngotracheobronchitis is a viral infection which causes the voice box and windpipe to swell. This along with the build-up of sticky mucus can narrow the airway and make breathing difficult for your child.1 Croup usually begins with a runny nose, cough, and a temperature. Other symptoms like a hoarse voice, noisy breathing, and a “barking” cough – the signature croup signs – kick in within a few days.
The good news is that croup typically resolves in 5 or 6 nights, with the worst part lasting only a couple of nights. And there’s plenty you can do to ease symptoms, reduce inflammation, and make your child feel more comfortable.2
1. Expose Your Child To Moist And Cool Air
Moist air and cool air are commonly used to ease breathing in mild to moderates cases of croup. You can use a cool mist humidifier which will moisten and soothe the inflamed airway. If you don’t have a humidifier, create a humid atmosphere by turning on the hot water in the bathroom with the door closed. Make sure that it doesn’t get too hot and that the temperature is comfortable. Let your child breathe in this moist air for around 10 or 15 minutes.34
The essential oils of eucalyptus and peppermint are commonly used in steam inhalations to ease coughing in adults but they’re not considered to be safe for children.5 6
During cooler months, exposing your child to cold air outside can also help open their airways. This, in turn, will ease breathing and reduce coughing during a croup attack. But do make sure that the child is properly bundled up before you take them out.7
2. Sit Them Up
Place a few pillows behind your child and make them sit up so that their head is elevated. This can help ease breathing.8
3. Give Lots Of Fluids To Drink
Drinking fluids will not only prevent dehydration but also move mucus out of your child’s airways. Make sure you offer something to drink several times an hour. While plain water will do, some experts also suggest giving them something cold to reduce swelling. So flavored ice pops, or drinks with crushed ice can all be a good (and perhaps more tempting) choice. 9 Some of the herbal drinks that follow should also help keep them hydrated – your child can be given these 2–3 times a day.
4. Try Chamomile Tea
Herbal remedies are not generally recommended for infants below the age of 6 months. It’s also a good idea to clear them with your doctor even for toddlers.10
Chamomile tea has anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties and is considered a great remedy for croup. Steep 2–3 teaspoons of the herb in a cup of boiling water for 10–15 minutes and have your child drink this. Inhaling the steam of this tea can also be beneficial. Another bonus? Chamomile can calm and soothe your child.
Do keep in mind, however, that children below the age of 5 should not be given more than half a cup of chamomile tea in a day. Also, if your child is allergic to ragweed, marigolds, chrysanthemums, or daisies, there’s a chance that they’ll be allergic to chamomile.
5. Use Honey And Lemon Juice
A warm honey and lemon drink can ease the coughing and help your child sleep peacefully at night. Both honey and lemon have antiviral properties. Honey also coats the throat, soothing irritation and suppressing coughing. Antioxidant vitamin C in lemon, meanwhile, can boost the immune system and help reduce the inflammation
To make a honey lemon drink, add 3 tablespoons of lemon juice to a cup of warm honey and dilute with 1/4 of a cup of warm water. 13 Have your child gulp down a couple of tablespoons of this mixture as soon they start coughing. A tablespoon of it before bed should also help. Just a note of caution – honey is not recommended for children below 12 months of age because of the risk of infant botulism.14
6. Try A Ginger Decoction
This traditional remedy can also help sooth the cough. Shogaols in ginger have anti-inflammatory properties and can ease or even suppress coughing.15 A teaspoon or two of ginger juice with honey should help. You can even make a ginger tea and add a touch of honey and lemon to amp it up.
7. Make A Thyme Tea
Thyme is well known for its ability to suppress and prevent coughing. It contains many bioactive compounds which work together to expel mucus and fight coughing. Steep ¼–½ a teaspoon of the herb in a cup of hot water to make a cup of soothing thyme tea for your child. 16
8. Try A Drink Of Anise Tea
Anise helps to remove mucus. It is also an antispasmodic that relieves spasmodic coughs gently. Boil half a teaspoon of crushed anise seeds in a cup of water with the lid on for around 10–15 minutes. Strain and offer your child sips of this tea.17
9. Explore Homeopathic Remedies: Aconite, Bromine, And Hepar Sulph
Homeopathy also offers several remedies for croup. But this is usually tailored to the individual, which is why you will need to consult a homeopathic doctor before trying them.
- Aconite is used when there is loud breathing and coughing while inhaling, along with restlessness, distress, and fever.
- Bromine is used when there is horse whistling, suffocative cough, gasping, and a hot face.
- Hepar sulph is used when there is a choking, rattling cough which becomes worse in the early morning hours.18
10. Keep Your Child Calm
Try to comfort and soothe your child so that they stay calm. Becoming upset and anxious can make things worse. For example, crying may make it more difficult for your child to breathe. Work with a puzzle, read a book, or watch television to distract them. You can also rock and hold them to comfort them.19 Since the symptoms of croup get worse at night, it might be a good idea to spend the night in your child’s room so that you are on hand if they have trouble breathing.20
Seek Immediate Medical Attention If
- your child is struggling to breathe
- has trouble swallowing
- is drooling excessively
- is sluggish or unusually quiet
It’s also important to get emergency help if the skin around their nose, mouth, or nails start to turn blue.21
|↑1||Croup in children. Queensland Government.|
|↑2||Croup. National Health Service.|
|↑3, ↑7, ↑19||Croup: Managing a Croup Attack. University of Michigan.|
|↑4||Croup. Harvard Health Publications.|
|↑5||Eucalyptus. National Institutes of Health.|
|↑6||Peppermint. University of Maryland.|
|↑8, ↑9||Croup. British Columbia.|
|↑10||Don’t Give Herbal Supplements to Infants. National Capital Poison Center.|
|↑11||Chamomile. University of Maryland.|
|↑12||McIntyre, Anne. Herbal treatment of children: Western and Ayurvedic perspectives. Elsevier Health Sciences, 2005.|
|↑13||Khalil, Amira Mohammed Saed Mohammed, and Rasha Mohamed Gamal. “Honey with lemon Improves Childrens Nocturnal Cough and their Sleep Quality as well as Their Parents.” International Journal 3, no. 6 (2015): 143-152.|
|↑14||Botulism. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.|
|↑15||Nikam, AJINKYA R., L. O. H. I. D. A. S. A. N. Sathiyanarayanan, and KAKASAHEB R. Mahadik. “Validation of reversed‐phase high‐performance liquid chromatography method for simultaneous determination of 6‐, 8‐, and 10‐shogaol from ginger preparations.” International Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences 5 (2013): 432-437.|
|↑16||Thyme. University of Michigan.|
|↑17||Anise. University of Michigan.|
|↑18||Croup. National Center For Homeopathy.|
|↑20, ↑21||Croup. American Academy of Family Physicians.|