Arlo & Croup – how to spot and treat it

I’ve written this post to potentially help any parents out there that come across croup, to either help them spot it if it happens to their child or to at least know a little more about it. I asked in twitter if a post would help and got a few yes replies, I’m (obviously!) not a medical professional so this is just my experience. This is what the NHS has to say about Croup. It sounds a lot worse than it is, and the actual barking cough tends to go as fast as it arrived, which will hopefully be some reassurance!

Last Thursday in the middle of the night Arlo woke up wheezing and coughing. Ordinarily I wouldn’t have been too alarmed but his cough sounded like a bark, a very distinctive noise and one that I knew was more serious than a normal cough. We were staying with Sams mum, so thankfully we could both take him to hospital and leave Athena asleep to be looked after in the morning.

It occurred to me to ring the NHS direct phone number, but only briefly as we were a good 40 minute drive from the closest A&E and I didn’t want to waste time faffing with them when I had a 5 month old baby sounding awful and struggling to breathe, so I didn’t bother. I shoved a few sleepsuits and nappies into a bag, added a couple of muslins and my phone charger and off we went (after him vomiting quite badly on his Granny, whoops!) Thankfully there was very little traffic on the country roads round Norwich, and only two other people waiting in A&E when we got there. Being such a small baby we were seen almost right away, and led to a bed surrounded by drunken idiots mostly.

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Arlo was still having a hard time breathing (you can see his chest is a bit concave in the photo above) but was coughing a lot less, we found out later that the little trip outside from house to car and car to hospital probably helped soothe him. Most people assume that a hot steamy room can help reduce swelling in the throat, but a few people I have spoken to since have said cold air works better, and in one case steam actually made her son worse! He was weighed and hooked up to a monitor to record his stats, and I was able to feed him a little too, he had a high temperature and I felt bad for not bringing a thermometer away with us as I hadn’t realised it was raised. I spent a bit of time pacing around with him in the carrier too trying to get him to fall asleep, which worked briefly but then the doctor arrived to examine him. He examined his throat, ears, eyes and nose and listened to his breathing, which was sounding less Darth Vader like already. He prescribed steroids in the form of an inhaler and some paracetamol orally (calpol style). Trying to administer the steroid inhaler, plus another one for airways to a small, over tired 5 month old who doesn’t like his head being held is no mean feat, but we got there in the end! The oral paracetamol syringe came next and all seemed to be going well, he got a few cuddles and smiles from the nursing staff who were a lot more enamoured with him than the screeching drunks dotted around the place!

It all went downhill though when Arlo projectile vomited twice in the space of about 5 minutes. The only other time I have given him calpol he was sick not long after too so perhaps it was that, but seeing as he’d been sick just before we left too they decided to take us up to the children’s ward for a pediatric doctor to see him. This took a while, so I did some more feeding and popped him in the sling again and eventually he settled into a fairly good sleep in the horrible sterile hospital cot. After around seven hours we were able to take him home as he had accepted (with some annoyance) another set of inhalers and hadn’t been sick. He still had a very faint ‘stridor’ (a wheezy sound when breathing in) but was a lot happier in himself and more alert. We were given the inhalers and the spacer to administer them with (a plastic chamber with a little rubber mask to cover the nose and mouth, you squirt the inhaler into the end of the spacer rather than directly into the baby!) and sent on our way!

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Since then we have only had to administer the steroid inhaler once, that evening before bed. He spent the whole night sleeping on me that night, waking every hour or so for feeds, and I slept less than that even as I was so worried he would get worse again! The next day he had a longer than normal nap and slept pretty well overnight, in the travel cot for most of it too! He is still coughing but the barking noise has gone and is a lot less wheezy now too. A week later he’s still sleepier than normal so I am hoping it’s his little body’s way of getting rid of whatever virus caused it. I am again eternally thankful for breastfeeding, not only could I help to soothe him and calm him down, but I didn’t need to go asking for hot water and so on in the middle of a busy A&E ward, phew!

I don’t think there is anything I could have done to stop him from getting Croup, he had a slight cough for a couple of days before this happened, as did Athena so I it was probably a nursery bug that hit his little immune system worse than hers. One of the A&E nurses said that it will probably happen again as he gets older, as her five year old has it three or four times now! But I will know what to expect now and if the inhaler is still in date will use that first and see if it helps, along with a little trip into the cold night air!

Hopefully this will help someone out, and if you’ve any questions at all please just ask!

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2 Comments

  1. 10th September 2015 / 9:16 am

    Great post Lauren. We’ve only had croup once here, with Bud when he was about 2.5. It’s amazing how much it sounds like the ‘seal bark’ people describe it as, when I heard it I recognised it straight away even with no experience. With Bud we gave calpol and calmed him and it eased straight away. He went back to sleep and I spent the rest of the night listening to him breathe! I think I’d be terrified if he’d been younger and fighting for breath in the same way Arlo was! Hope he’s fully recovered now.

  2. 10th September 2015 / 10:33 pm

    oh my goodness! That sounds like such an ordeal. My cousins who are both 13 still have bouts of croup but because my Aunt knows the signs for it now she’s able to help manage it pretty early on. They’re super fit and healthy boys so please don’t worry about a repeat episode later on in his life being quite so traumatic for everyone. Well done for spotting it was out of the ordinary and getting him the help he needed xx

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