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Various croup remedies can help treat symptoms in adults and children.
Croup is a viral upper airway infection, often identifiable by a distinct barking cough. A person may also have a hoarse voice or raspy breathing.
Croup often occurs in children, typically between the ages of 6 months and 3 years.
There is no outright cure for croup. While the infection tends to resolve on its own within a few days, symptoms — including a cough — may linger for a few weeks.
Below, we describe various home remedies and care strategies that can help ease symptoms.
Try using the following to help croup symptoms pass:
Croup causes a painful, dry cough. Adding humidity to the air may help lubricate the airways and make the cough less severe.
Room humidifiers can help keep the air consistently warm and moist, which may ease croup symptoms. Various humidifiers are available for purchase online.
For a simpler fix, a person can sit in a bathroom with the door closed and the hot water running. Breathing in the steam may help relax the throat and make it easier to breathe.
Breathing in cold air may help people experiencing labored breathing or stridor — the noisy breathing that croup can cause.
Going outside in cold weather for a few minutes may help ease restrictions on the airways.
Alternately, just standing in front of an open freezer and taking a few long breaths may deliver enough cold air to reduce stridor and ease breathing.
Be careful to avoid prolonged exposure to extreme cold, however.
Drinking plenty of fluids can ensure that the throat is lubricated, lessening the harmful effects of a cough on the airways.
Additionally, staying hydrated can help ward off more severe croup symptoms, such as a fever.
While drinking water is the most obvious way to keep the body hydrated, eating high liquid foods, such as soup or fruit, can help.
Cold liquids and frozen treats, such as popsicles, can help numb any soreness in the throat, while warm liquids, such as herbal tea, can be soothing and loosen any mucus.
For very young children, liquids such as fruit juice or electrolyte drinks may also be helpful.
Symptoms of croup may worsen when a person is lying flat. In bed, elevating the head may ease pressure and help a person sleep. Sitting upright or reclining only slightly while resting may also help.
Do not use pillows for very young babies, however. It may be best to sleep next to the baby to listen for any signs of stridor and adjust them as needed.
Crying, irritability, and agitation are all common in children with croup. These reactions can make symptoms worse and put more stress on the throat and airways. It is important to find ways to comfort the child.
Showing extra affection during this time may help them feel soothed. It may help to gently rub their back, sing to them, or simply spend time with them.
Inhaling various essential oils may help relieve croup discomfort in adults.
One study notes that compounds from common plant essential oils — such as eucalyptus, tea tree, and peppermint oils — may help reduce respiratory tract inflammation, open the airways, and otherwise ease symptoms of an infection.
For adults, it may help to add a few drops of these essential oils to a diffuser. However, this may not be safe for children.
The effects of essential oils in children are largely untested, and kids are more likely to have adverse reactions to certain compounds in the oils.
It is not recommended to use essential oils for young children with croup, and it may be unsafe to use them during pregnancy or breastfeeding.
In addition, some essential oils are toxic to pets.
Taking over-the-counter fever or pain relief medication can ease these croup symptoms.
There are adult and children versions of many of these medications, with different formulas and dosage instructions. For example, types of ibuprofen (Advil) and acetaminophen (Tylenol) may be appropriate for children, beginning at 6 months of age.
However, anyone who is uncertain should consult a doctor or pharmacist before giving an over-the-counter drug to a child.
While home remedies may help resolve a croup infection and relieve the symptoms, it is important to consider potential risks.
Treatments that are appropriate for adults are often unsuitable for children, such as using potent-smelling creams or essential oils to open the airways.
Avoid very hot sources of steam. For instance, do not put a child’s head over a steaming pot of water. This can expose their sensitive skin to very high temperatures and potential burns.
While liquids such as herbal teas may be appropriate for adults, some herbal teas may be too strong for children. Instead, try warm water or soup broth.
Cough medicine may also be unnecessary in most cases. Coughing up the mucus in the throat is an important part of healing. Rather than seeking to suppress the cough, aim for methods of making it more productive, or “phlegmy.”
Croup generally only lasts a few days. Symptoms may get worse at night, but this is not necessarily a sign of a worsening infection.
Croup can affect anyone. However, children younger than 3 years may have the most severe symptoms. In these kids, swelling may make it difficult to breathe.
Signs such as continual labored breathing may be a signal to see a doctor. Very young children may flare their nostrils to try to bring in more air.
Other indications that young children need to see a doctor include:
- developing more than two croup infections in a year
- having a sudden, harsh cough
- continuous wheezing, even while resting
- changes in skin tone, such as the tips of the fingernails or lips becoming bluish
- signs of dehydration, such as crying without tears or fewer wet diapers
- stridor that gets worse rather than better
- trouble swallowing, which may take the form of extra drool
- decreased alertness
For anyone with croup, if symptoms do not get better within a few days, it may be time to discuss treatment options with a healthcare provider.
In very severe cases, doctors may prescribe stronger medications or steroids. Hospitalization for this issue is rare.
Croup symptoms can be painful and irritating, especially in younger children. There is no cure for the infection, but it tends to clear up in a matter of days.
Taking measures to lubricate the throat, open the airways, and rest comfortably can help ease symptoms.
While croup can be challenging and stressful, it is generally not a cause for concern.
However, anyone experiencing difficulty breathing or other severe symptoms should see a doctor.