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The Croup: Is that My Kid Barking?

It seems to hit every year -- that time when your children seem to come home from school with a new ailment every week. Noses are running, throats are sore and hacking coughs are rampant. Among the illnesses your child may have this winter is croup.

What is croup?

Croup is caused by a virus and is usually a result of an infection from the flu or RSV (Respiratory Syncytial Virus). It normally affects children from three months to three years old. The onset of a case of croup is slow, taking from 24 to 48 hours to manifest itself.

Croup causes swelling of the tracheal (windpipe) tissue, which produces a characteristic "barking" type of cough. The swollen tissue also causes a high-pitched sound during inhaling, called "stridor". There may also be hoarseness or fever.

 These symptoms would,of course, cause a parent to take a child to a physician. Once the illness is diagnosed as croup, most children can be cared for at home with the aid of a humidifier.

One Caution:
When using a humidifier, it is imperative to keep it meticulously clean. A dirty humidifier can incubate and spread germs through the air. Thorough cleaning can be accomplished by soaking the humidifier in one cup of white vinegar to one gallon of water at least every two days. For more information concerning humidifiers, read the manufacturer's instructions or contact the Respiratory Care Department at Valley View Hospital, (970) 384-7695.

Another trick to help a child with croup to feel better is the use of cold air. Bundle the child up and take them outside, where the cold air helps to shrink the inflammation of the throat tissue. Ice pops and cold drinks may also help.

What to Watch For

If you or your child is sick with a respiratory illness, you should watch for signs of respiratory distress:
  • Take special notice if your child is having difficulty swallowing and call your physician immediately should this occur. This could indicate a serious condition called epiglottitis.
  • Increased heart rate,above 120 beats per minute.
  • Respiratory rate above 40 breaths per minute.
  • Wheezing.
  • Chest retraction (when taking a breath you can see the breast bone caving in with each breath)
  • Cyanosis,a bluish coloring around the lips, fingernail beds or eyelids (indicating low oxygen levels).
  • Listlessness, characterized by an obvious change in activity level or level of consciousness.
  • Grunting or nasal flaring.
  • Unwillingness to take fluids

If these signs or symptoms occur, contact your physician or take your child to the emergency department.

For further information,contact the Respiratory Care Practitioners at Valley View Hospital, (970) 384-7695.

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