Home Care and Remedies for Croup
Implementing certain remedies and home care can help you cope with croup symptoms. This viral infection, also known as “acute laryngotracheitis,” compromises the health of the upper respiratory tract and most commonly affects children between the ages of 6 months and three years.
In the past, the term “croup” only referred to infection by the bacterium Corynebacterium diphtheriae. Today, according to the Spanish Society of Outpatient Pediatrics and Primary Care, the concept includes various laryngeal, tracheal, and bronchial conditions.
Older children, adolescents, and adults can also suffer from it. In particular, it’s characterized by a “barking cough” and shortness of breath. In addition, it can also manifest itself with hoarseness when speaking, low fever, and nasal congestion. So, how can you deal with it? When should you consult a doctor? Read on to learn the asnwers!
What is croup, and what are its causes?
Before knowing in detail the remedies and care to alleviate croup, it’s first important to make a brief review of the most important characteristics of this viral infection. It’s worth mentioning that it is caused by several types of viruses, such as the following:
- Parainfluenza virus
- Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV)
- Influenza A and B
To be more precise, it causes inflammation of the larynx and trachea, leading to the manifestation of inspiratory stridor and barking cough. In addition, if it spreads to the bronchi, it’s called “laryngotracheobronchitis”.
In general, it usually improves with the application of some self-care measures. There are also natural remedies that help mitigate the symptoms.
However, it’s important to be alert, since some cases worsen and cause the following complications:
- Bacterial tracheitis
- Pulmonary edema
- Death (rare cases)
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Home remedies to soothe croup
In most cases, croup improves over the course of days, as do other viral upper respiratory tract infections. However, coughing, congestion, and breathing difficulties produce a general state of discomfort. To minimize this, the following home remedies can be applied.
1. Humidifier therapy
Treatment with a cool mist humidifier has become popular because of its ability to reduce dry air and associated symptoms. In the case of croup, its use helps control airway irritation, congestion, and breathing difficulties.
Although there’s still not enough scientific evidence on these benefits, the Mayo Clinic highlights in one of its publications that it is a useful element to relieve the symptoms of a cold or other respiratory condition.
However, this entity warns that it must be used properly, since too much humidity is counterproductive. In addition, if it’s not clean, the device accumulates mold and bacteria that worsen illnesses.
Ideally, the humidity at home should be between 30% and 50%.
2. Essential oils
Essential oils are obtained from the processing of plants, flowers, spices, and certain fruits. They’re a mixture of volatile compounds that exert pharmacological activity.
According to a study reported in Flavour and Fragrance Journal, certain oils of this type have therapeutic potential against respiratory tract infections. Their inhalation or transdermal application relieves congestion, respiratory discomfort, and cough.
Some of the most recommended options are the following:
- Anise essential oil
- Peppermint oil
- Bitter fennel fruit
- Thyme oil
- Tea tree oil
The most common way to use them is by inhalation. To do this, dilute a few drops in boiling water and breathe in the steam.
However, be careful! For children, this method is dangerous because of the hot water. It should be supervised, or a safer method should be chosen.
They can also be added to an aroma diffuser or applied topically. In the latter case, they are usually combined with a carrier oil (such as coconut, almond, or olive oil) and massaged into the chest, neck, and glands.
These products are not without contraindications and side effects. In some children, their use can lead to allergic reactions.
For example, a case report in the Journal of Neurosciences in Rural Practice suggests avoiding the use of eucalyptus oil in young children, as it’s associated with seizures and other side effects.
Any manifestation of allergy is reason enough to avoid the use of essential oils. Ideally, do a small test of the product before using it in its entirety.
3. Over-the-counter medications
Infants and young children should not consume over-the-counter medications without prior recommendation from a pediatrician. A publication shared at the University of Rochester Medical Center details that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) advise against these drugs in children under two years of age.
Why is this? Their use poses potential risks and side effects ranging from mild to severe. For safe use, the pediatrician or family physician must first establish a diagnosis. In addition, the dosage should be adjusted according to age, weight, and health problems.
In the case of croup, over-the-counter fever reducers such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen are often used if a low or moderate fever is present.
Care to help relieve the symptoms of croup
In addition to the remedies mentioned above, there is other basic care that speeds recovery from croup. It’s best to implement them simultaneously with the remedies for a greater sense of relief.
Ensure a comfortable and quiet environment
The symptoms of croup cause the child to fuss and cry. As a consequence, congestion increases, as well as respiratory discomfort.
Therefore, as far as possible, try to make them feel comfortable and calm. To do so, the following can be applied:
- Make sure their room is clean.
- Give them a favorite toy to keep them entertained.
- Talk to each other softly and in a soothing voice. Singing something to their liking may also work.
- Gently massage their back.
- Turn on the aroma diffuser.
Take care of hydration
As detailed in a study reported in the Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism, hydration plays an important role in children for physiological reasons and for the adoption of healthy drinking habits. In the face of viral infections, this habit is even more important.
Given the inflammation of the larynx, it is ideal for providing the child with cold drinks, popsicles, and jellies to contribute to hydration. Children older than seven years can be given other soothing drinks, such as fruit, chamomile, or lemon and honey infusions.
Improve their posture
When croup causes sleeping difficulties due to respiratory discomfort, improving posture can help. This can be done by stacking several pillows so that you sleep slightly tilted forward.
When should you see a doctor?
Usually, these remedies will help improve croup within a couple of days. Even so, symptoms may become more noticeable at night. If there’s no improvement, or if there are signs of complications, then it’s best to see a doctor.
Immediate attention should be sought for the following clinical manifestations:
- Nasal flaring
- History of croup
- Sudden onset of rough cough
- Wheezing of the chest at rest
- A blue coloration of the lips or fingernails
Like this article? You may also like to read: Homemade Cough Syrup to Expel Phlegm from Your Lungs
What to remember about remedies for croup
Croup is a viral infection that affects the upper respiratory tract. It usually occurs in young children, but can occur in people of any age.
It tends to get better within a couple of days. However, the symptoms can be relieved with certain remedies and care. If in doubt or if there are signs of complications, it’s best to consult a doctor.It might interest you...
All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.
- Sizar O, Carr B. Croup. [Updated 2021 Jul 26]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK431070/
- Humidifiers: Ease skin, breathing symptoms. (June 08, 2021). Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (MFMER). Available in https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/common-cold/in-depth/humidifiers/art-20048021
- Horváth, G., & Ács, K. (2015). Essential oils in the treatment of respiratory tract diseases highlighting their role in bacterial infections and their anti-inflammatory action: a review. In Flavour and Fragrance Journal (Vol. 30, Issue 5, pp. 331–341). Wiley. https://doi.org/10.1002/ffj.3252
- Dudipala SC, Mandapuram P, Ch LK. Eucalyptus Oil-Induced Seizures in Children: Case Reports and Review of the Literature. J Neurosci Rural Pract. 2021 Jan;12(1):112-115. doi: 10.1055/s-0040-1721199. Epub 2021 Jan 29. PMID: 33531768; PMCID: PMC7846315.
- Over-The-Counter Medicines for Infants and Children. (n.d.). University of Rochester Medical Center Rochester. Available from: https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?contenttypeid=1&contentid=2804#:~:text=The%20FDA%20and%20American%20Academy,medicine%2C%20especially%20the%20first%20time.
- Bottin JH, Morin C, Guelinckx I, Perrier ET. Hydration in Children: What Do We Know and Why Does it Matter? Ann Nutr Metab. 2019;74 Suppl 3:11-18. doi: 10.1159/000500340. Epub 2019 Jun 14. PMID: 31203294.