Croup. If your kid has ever had it, this word probably strikes dread in your heart. If you have not yet experienced croup, this blog post still applies to you! Croup is one of those common childhood illnesses that can strike without much warning. It is the cause of many late night ER visits with parents and young children. So what is croup and how can we treat it naturally?
What is croup?
Croup is an infection of the upper airway, which obstructs breathing and causes a characteristic barking cough. It is typically viral.
Croup mostly affects younger children from ages 3 months to 5 years. Croup usually isn’t serious and most children can be treated at home.
Croup often begins as a typical cold. If there’s enough inflammation and coughing, the child will develop:
- Loud barking cough that’s further aggravated by crying and coughing, as well as anxiety and agitation, setting up a cycle of worsening signs and symptoms
- Hoarse voice
- Breathing that may be noisy or labored
Symptoms of croup are typically worse at night and usually last for three to five days.
Source: Mayo Clinic
Our first croup experience woke my husband and I from a dead sleep. We found our son in the bathroom, crying, retching over the toilet afraid he was going to vomit and struggling to find his breath. I immediately knew this was croup from the sound of his cough. The first thing you should do if this happens is wrap your child up and take them outside in the cold air (or open the freezer). This will help the inflammation and allow them to catch their breath.
What will the doctor do?
If the croup symptoms are severe, or you do not see improvement within 3-5 days of treating at home, you should consult with your pediatrician. If your child experiences any of the symptoms below you should seek medical attention.
- Makes a noisy, high-pitched sound when she breathes in (doctors call this “stridor”)
- Starts drooling or has trouble swallowing
- Is constantly cranky, irritable, or uncomfortable
- Has very hard, labored breathing
- Has neck or chest muscles that “pull in” when she breathes
- Is very tired, lethargic, or hard to awaken
- Turns bluish or dark around her lips, under her nose, mouth, or around her fingernails.
Source: Mayo Clinic
Most of the time, croup is treated at home and resolves on its own. However, if medical attention is needed your doctor will likely prescribe steroids and/or epinephrine to control the inflammation.
What can you do at home?
There are many things that can be done at home to help ease the symptoms, make your child more comfortable, and increase their healing time. Below is our families “Croup Protocol”.
- Stay calm and step outside (or into the freezer). As mentioned above this helps ease inflammation almost immediately. If it is not cold outside you can use cold air from your freezer.
- Moist air. A cool-mist humidifier running in the child’s room.
- Homeopathic Remedies. Aconite (aconitum napellus) is a homeopathic remedy (more info on what homeopathic medicine is can be found here) that is to be given at the very first sign of croup. Typically we find relief after two doses spaced 15 minutes apart. But you may need to dose every 15 minutes for an hour and then as needed. After aconite it is recommended to switch remedies as the cough progresses. The remedy you pick is based on the symptoms:
- Spongia (spongia tosta): Given after aconite when the cough is dry
- Hepar Sulphur: Given in the later stages of croup with the cough turns to a more mucous like cough.
- Herbs: There are many great herbs available to help ease inflammation, boost the immune system, and calm the child. My favorites for croup are thyme, marshmallow, licorice, and yarrow. You can infuse a tea using a tablespoon of each in 8 ounces of hot water. Keep it in the refrigerator and warm it up during the day for your child to sip on.
- Immune boosting. Since croup is typically viral and accompanies a cold, immune boosting is a must. We turn to vitamin C, D and elderberry. We also really love this product from Herb Pharm.
- Croup chest rub. If your child is over the age of two, try the easy DIY chest rub recipe below.
- Fluids, rest and healthy eating!
In our experience using this protocol, the barking cough typically does not come back after the aconite dosing and a mucus cough begins about 12 hours later. Just continue the protocol as needed.
Croup Chest Rub
- 1/4C of coconut oil
- 1TBS of beeswax
- 18 drops of thyme essential oil
- 18 drops of lemon essential oil (steam distilled)
- 18 drops of marjoram essetial oil
- 18 drops of lavender essential oil
In a double broiler heat the coconut oil and beeswax until melted. Do not boil your mixture, only heat to the point of melted. Once the oil is melted, turn the heat off but leave your top pan over the hot water. Add in your essential oils and immediately pour your mixture into your jar. It will harden as it cools.
For children age 2 and up, apply to the chest 3 times a day. This chest rub can help with all coughs, not just croup.
*This recipe is using a 1% dilution rate which is a modest and safe dilution rate for children age 2-5. For more information on essential oil safety please check out Some Notes on Essential Oil Safety + Why I Won’t Support Essential Oil MLM’s
**DISCLAIMER: This information is for educational purposes only. It is not meant to diagnosis or treat, as I am not a doctor. Please consult with your physician before starting any new vitamins, diets, or remedies. And always do your own research on natural remedies to ensure that you think they are safe.**