You put your healthy child to bed only to be awakened in the middle of the night by a loud seal-like barking coming from their room. Spasmodic croup is the likely culprit. What is spasmodic croup? What causes this illness? What can you do to help your child recover from spasmodic croup?
What is Spasmodic Croup?
Although there are two different types of croup, they are often difficult to differentiate. Spasmodic croup is a type of croup that has a sudden, often unforeseen onset and recurs often. This type of croup rarely occurs in conjunction with a fever. While infectious croup tends to infect mostly children age five and under, those who are prone to spasmodic croup often still develop the disease into late childhood and even into adulthood. Spasmodic croup can be triggered by a cold, allergy or viral infection.
Causes of Spasmodic Croup
Spasmodic croup is commonly brought on by a virus. It may develop as a result of a viral infection, but it is not actually caused by the infection itself. Scientists are unsure of the exact cause of spasmodic croup. Some believe it is the result of an allergic reaction to the infection. Other theories point to irritation of stomach acid on the throat or even psychological factors. It is believed that the condition may also be caused by allergies in the absence of any viral infection.
Who is Affected by Spasmodic Croup?
Approximately 15 percent of all cases of respiratory illness in the U.S. are the result of croup. Spasmodic croup usually begins around the age of three months. It is most common between the ages of three months and three years, but can continue into later childhood. Some individuals are prone to attacks well into adulthood.
Symptoms of Spasmodic Croup
Often, there are few symptoms leading up to an actual attack of spasmodic croup. The telltale cold symptoms, sore throat and fever that are usually present in infectious croup are often completely absent. The most common symptom of spasmodic croup is the sudden middle of the night waking with a barking “croupy” cough and stridor. Spasmodic croup recurs often and suddenly and can be quite severe.
Treatment of Spasmodic Croup
Treatment of both types of croup are the same and focus on at-home care. The croup cough can be stopped by bringing the child outdoors to breathe the cool night air. A steamy bathroom may also help to quell the seal-like barking. Running a cool mist humidifier near your child can also help. Spasmodic croup often improves greatly with a humidifier.
If your child is unable to sleep, make sure your offer them plenty of clear fluids such as water, ice, Popsicles and broth to drink. Fluids will help to thin mucus and improve breathing. Do not give your croupy child milk or caffeinated drinks as these tend to make croup symptoms worse. Keep your child calm and comfortable. Agitation and crying can bring on a coughing attack.
Distract your child by allowing them to watch TV, play a game or read to them. Encourage your child to rest as much as possible. Give ibuprofen or acetaminophen to relieve discomfort and help them sleep. If your child frequently suffers from bouts of spasmodic croup your doctor may prescribe a nebulizer and inhaled steroid to be kept on hand to offer quick relief and prevent a trip to the emergency room.