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On Call: Croup Soothers

Q. My child has already had croup several times this year. Is this normal? What can I do?

It's not uncommon for kids to be prone to croup, a term for the inflammation and swelling of the upper airway and lungs. Croup's usually caused by the viruses that give us the common cold, and can occur year-round. The classic symptom is a barky, seal-like cough, especially at night; if the airway gets very swollen, it can also cause trouble breathing.

Many kids who tend to get croup have a narrower airway than is typical, but as they grow older and it grows bigger, the problem goes away. Some have easily irritated lungs. A very small percentage have something more serious going on, so just in case, take your child to the doctor for a checkup.

To relieve his cough, try a cool-mist humidifier close to his bed or crib, open a window to let chilly night air in, or sit with him in the bathroom with the shower on. If these don't work, talk to your doctor. And take him to the ER immediately if he's:

  • Breathing rapidly or with difficulty
  • Sucking in around the neck or ribs
  • Having rouble talking
  • Looking pale  -- or, worse, bluish
  • Much sleepier than usual