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How Do You Effectively Treat Croup?

kid drinking water

Story at-a-glance -

  • Croup treatment depends on whether the child’s illness is caused by a viral or bacterial infection. Fortunately, treatment is quite minimal since the majority of cases can be treated at home
  • Prior to utilizing natural treatments, consult a physician or health expert to know the ideal amount that should be given to a child and some dos and don’ts regarding these remedies

Croup treatment depends on whether the child’s illness is caused by a viral or bacterial infection.1 Fortunately, treatment is quite minimal since the majority of cases can be treated at home.

However, extra precaution is needed if the child ends up in the emergency room or hospital. A child with severe croup may be given adrenaline via a nebulizer to help improve symptoms and allow the child to breathe the medication as a mist. A distressed child who also experiences breathing difficulties can receive help via an oxygen mask.2

On rare occasions, a hospitalized child may undergo intubation, wherein a temporary breathing tube is inserted either through a nostril or through the mouth, and is passed down to the windpipe.3

Say 'No' to Steroids as a Croup Treatment

Children with croup symptoms that last for around three to five days and consequently worsen may be given steroids like dexamethasone, epinephrine and prednisolone to potentially lessen inflammation in the airways.4,5  However, be aware that there are side effects linked to these medications, as noted below:6,7,8

Dexamethasone: Nausea, headaches, dizziness, stomach pain, dry or thinning skin, mood changes, bruising or discoloration, increased sweating and bloating

Epinephrine: Irritation (when a shot is given), flushing, upset stomach or vomiting, dizziness, dry mouth and nervousness or increased excitement

Prednisolone: Dizziness, shortness of breath, blurred vision, aggression, agitation, headaches and numbness or tingling of legs or arms

Because of their potential dangers, steroids aren’t highly recommended as treatments for illnesses that target adults, so just imagine the harm that they can deliver to a child, whose body may not be fully developed to handle medicines like these.

The Case Against Over-the-Counter Painkillers

Over-the-counter (OTC) painkillers like ibuprofen and acetaminophen/paracetamol (both in liquid form) may be recommended as treatment for croup.9 However, these painkillers are best avoided because of potential complications:

Ibuprofen: A non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), ibuprofen can trigger dizziness, stomachache, drowsiness, rashes, nausea and vomiting.10 Studies have also shown that long-term NSAID use can cause hearing loss in adults.11 Pregnant women who used NSAIDs during pregnancy also have an 80 percent higher risk for miscarriage, with the association increasing if they took an NSAID for more than a week after or during the week of conception.12

Acetaminophen (known as Tylenol in the U.S. and paracetamol in Europe):13 This was linked to a higher asthma risk in a child between the ages of 3 and 7 who had prenatal acetaminophen exposure. The more acetaminophen used by the mother, the higher the asthma risk. This probability may also increase if acetaminophen was used to treat a sickness during infancy.

Acetaminophen overdose also plays a role in acetaminophen poisoning and significant liver damage. It causes nearly half of all acute liver failure cases in the U.S.,14 and often leads to liver injury among children given repeated doses.15 Even worse, acetaminophen overdose is said to be responsible for more than 150 annual deaths in the U.S.16

Acetaminophen can significantly impact emotions and neurological functions. A study conducted by a team from the University of Toronto and the University of British Columbia discovered that acetaminophen made people prone to committing errors.17

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Opt for These Home Remedies for Croup Instead

Placing a cool or warm mist vaporizer near the child can be an effective way to help the child breathe more comfortably. The humidified air assists in reducing vocal cord swelling and overall symptoms. Remember to keep hot water vaporizers out of infants’ and toddlers’ reach to prevent burns.18

You can also let the child breathe inside a bathroom that’s been steamed up with hot water from the tub or shower, provided there is parental supervision. Meanwhile, if the child experiences aggravated cough or stridor at night, try sitting or driving in the cool night air for around 10 to 15 minutes to help ease symptoms. Here are other natural remedies for croup you should also try:19

Fluids: A well-hydrated patient can recover more quickly. Try increasing liquid intake to the maximum.

Breast milk and water are highly recommended for infants, while older children can drink water, soups or bone broth.

Other good options include organic vegetable broth, herbal teas, fresh lemonade or fruit pulp.

Raw honey: This is an effective croup cough treatment, since it may reduce bedtime coughing and induce sleep.

However, raw honey mustn't be given to children less than a year old because of the risk for botulism (a rare but serious disease triggered by toxins from the Clostridium botulinum bacteria20).

Lemon tea: It can help alleviate throat pain and stimulate the immune system. Mix some ginger with the juice of half a lemon and add to hot water.

Chamomile tea: Drinking this can provide relief.

Elderberry flowers: These can assist in boosting the immune system, alleviating respiratory problems and helping relieve congestion.

Horsemint: Also known as bee balm, horsemint can help relieve severe cough.

Boil two to three horsemint leaves in a cup of hot water and have the patient sip the tea two to three times daily to improve breathing.

Wild cherry bark: This herb can help soothe throat irritation and deliver anti-inflammatory properties. Wild cherry bark can be inhaled or consumed as tea.

Betel leaves: A child can get relief from croup by consuming tea made from betel leaves two to three times a day.

Lobelia: Try using lobelia extract to help your body minimize effects of inflammation, cough and breathing issues.

Mullein milk: This is a traditional way to treat respiratory problems, while its flowers and leaves have anti-inflammatory properties.

Plus, you can make tea from mullein leaves to help relieve croup, or let the patient inhale the steam to assist in treating the throat infection.

Prior to utilizing these natural treatments, consult a physician or health expert first to know the ideal amount that should be given to a child and some dos and don’ts regarding these remedies.


Croup: Introduction

What Is Croup?

Is Croup Contagious?

Croup in Adults

Croup Symptoms

Croup Causes

Types of Croup

Croup Treatment

Essential Oils for Croup

Croup Prevention

Croup FAQ

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Types of Croup

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Essential Oils for Croup

+ Sources and References