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A practical guide for nutritional and traditional health care.

Croup

Croup is a severe type of infection that strikes the upper part of the respiratory tract and causes swelling as well as inflammation in the region lower than the vocal cords. This condition is more widespread in children, especially those in the age group of 3 months to 3 years. Before your child develops croup, he/ she may possibly suffer from an infection of the upper respiratory tract, for instance, a sore throat, sinus infection, or a cold. Almost in all cases, croup is attributable to a viral infection that may also strike the membranes above as well as below the larynx (also called the voice box). Like in the case of several other viral infections, croup also occurs most often during the fall as well as winter.

You can differentiate croup by its symptoms, which include a grating, barking cough accompanied by breathing problems and a low-pitched, harsh gasping sound while the patient inhales each time. The swelling and inflammation of the larynx causes such symptoms. The viral infection is also likely to augment the production of mucus that may block the air passage. Although croup is generally not a fatal ailment, it is one of the most scarring as well as horrible ailments that one may have in his/ her childhood.

The symptoms of this viral infection may vary from being mild to serious. The patient may experience breathing problems or his/ her breathing may become faster. In addition, the muscles located amid the ribs may repress when you child breathes in, and it may seem that your child would require working hard to simply breathe. As being in an upright posture makes breathing easier, it is likely that your child would have a preference to sit straight in his/ her bed or would like to be held in an upright position. In addition to these symptoms, you child may also suffer from congestion and fever.

Infants suffering from croup usually wake up in the midst of the night. A bout of croup may continue for many hours, settle down and occur again during the next few nights. While usually croup does not continue for more than three days, it may possibly turn out to be a chronic ailment.

It may be noted that many other health conditions can imitate this viral infection. For instance, an infant who is suffocating may possibly also suffer from a cough akin to that in the case of croup. Nevertheless, a child who is suffocating owing to any blockage in the air passage may produce frenzied, shrill sounds, but not talk in a normal manner, while an infant having croup will have the capability to talk in the middle of coughing bouts. Moreover, the symptoms related to croup resemble those of severe epiglottis - a bacterial infection that advances very fast.

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Supplements and herbs

Specific herbal remedies as well as nutritional supplements are effective in treating croup and alleviating the symptoms of this viral infection. Your child will benefit if he/ she is given an herbal tea using licorice, marshmallow root, osha root and mullein in equal proportions twice every day till the time the symptoms of this viral infection remain. While marshmallow root reduces inflammation and smears over as well as alleviates the irritated throat, mullein aids in encouraging expectoration and provides relief to the inflamed respiratory tract. The herb osha aids in clearing the lungs, whereas licorice possesses anti-inflammatory as well as antiviral attributes and makes the tea sweet to taste.

It may be noted here that children with high blood pressure should not be given licorice.

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Aromatherapy

Aromatherapy is also helpful in treating croup as well as easing the symptoms of this condition. A number of essential oils are effective for treating croup in infants and they include basil, eucalyptus, thyme, rosemary and marjoram.

Homeopathy

You may also use homeopathic remedies to help your child in recuperating from croup. The appropriate homeopathic remedies should be used in the potency of 6, 12, or 30th as frequently as the symptoms may necessitate. These remedies may be given at hourly intervals or more frequently if the disease is in a severe stage.

  • Aconite
    Aconite is the most appropriate homeopathic remedy for croup when the patient makes solid, parched, rasping and croupy sounds when they are exposed to drafts and cold breeze. It is especially effective when the viral infection begins abruptly and is accompanied by high fever and a reddish hot face that becomes pale later. The patient's body heats up and they have a very strong thirst. They also produce shrill sounds and cough while exhaling. The first bout of croup occurs when the patient is asleep. Children suffering from this condition usually have an inflamed larynx and a choking throat. Children suffering from croup and requiring Aconite are usually restive and are afraid of death.
    The condition of such patients deteriorates when they are exposed to cold, anyone touches them, after midnight and while lying in the bed. The condition improves when the patient is in a lying position or out in the open air.
  • Hepar sulph.
    As a homeopathic remedy, Hepar sulph. is useful for croup patients who have a hollow and croupy cough. They also have slack, fast-moving and persistent mucus and experience suffocation, stifling and breathe problems. Such patients have copious sour sweating and feel feeble. They also have a cold sensation and long for acidic or bitter substances. Hepar sulph. is generally given to patients who develop crop following exposure to cold arid breeze. They are disquiet while lying down and are tetchy with anger.
    Their condition deteriorates when they are exposed to drafts or cold air, in the wee hours of the morning and during the period between evening and midnight, when they are uncovered, lie down and after taking any cold food or beverage. Such patients feel better when exposed to heat, humidity and when they are covered up.
  • Iodum
    Croup patients requiring the homeopathic remedy Iodum have an arid, croupy, and chronic cough accompanied by a dehydrated throat and larynx. They have solid and severe mucus accompanied by a continuous irritation inside the trachea (also called the wind pipe) and the sternum (breastbone). They usually breathe with difficulty and have inflamed larynx accompanied by a hoarse voice. Every time they cough, they experience a pain in the larynx and suffocation in the throat. Despite a weight loss and emancipation, the appetite of such patients remains good. Iodum is especially beneficial for croup patients having morning and night sweats.
    In this case, the condition of the patients worsen when they are in a warm room, all covered up, while talking and during the night. They feel better when they are in motion and exposed to cold air.
  • Kali hick
    This homeopathic remedy is most suitable for croup patients who have a harsh, stifling or barking cough accompanied by viscous, yellowish and persistent mucus that is difficult to expel. They experience a choking sensation and are unable to talk always requiring clearing their throat. They also suffer from shortness of breath that is rattling as well as rasping. Such patients also experience pain that begins from the larynx and spreads to the trachea and their back. As a homeopathic remedy Kali hick is given to croup patients who have feel cold, lethargic and feeble.
    The condition of these people suffering from croup deteriorates while walking, eating, lying down, when exposed to cold, damp conditions, when the weather is hot and humid and during the period between 2 a.m. and 3 a.m. They feel better while in motion and when exposed to warmth.
  • Phosphorus
    Phosphorus is a homeopathic remedy that is given to people suffering from croup and having hollow, dry and rasping or slackened cough. The entire body of such patients trembles when they have bouts of cough. This homeopathic remedy is effective in curing croup symptoms like intense hoarseness and throbbing larynx that makes talking difficult. They also have an inflamed larynx and need to clear their throat constantly. Phosphorus is especially useful when croup patients have a choking feeling in their larynx, chest and trachea. In such cases croup develops into a chronic ailment and occurs from time to time, sometime even developing into bronchitis. The patients also suffer from intense debility and are sensitive to touch.
    The condition aggravates when the patients are lying on their left side, talking or laughing; when they have any hot food or drink; during twilight; after any type of mental or physical exertion; and when anyone touches them. They feel better when they are asleep or are in the open air.
  • Spongia tosta
    Spongia tosta is the most suitable homeopathic remedy for treating croup with symptoms like a hollow, crowing, scything cough and gasping breaths. These patients feel suffocated as if a leaf or plug has been covering the opening of the larynx and pant for air. They have a burning sensation in the larynx and chest and become very sensitive when any one touches them. Such croup patients have throbbing pulsations. They typically have a heavy, weak feeling and are always frightened.
    The condition of these patients gets worse when they are inhaling, lifting their arms, talking; exposed to aridity, chilliness and winds; prior to midnight and after sleeping. They feel better after eating; taking any hot food or drink; and while lying down with their head low.

Additional things you may do

In addition to using conventional medicaments, homeopathic remedies, taking herbal remedies and dietary supplements and using aromatherapy, doing a few more things will help croup patients to cure their condition as well as provide relief from the symptoms of this viral infection.

For instance, your child suffering from croup will benefit if you take him/her to the bathroom, close the door and open the hot shower. Remain in the bathroom, not in the shower or tub, for about 15 to minutes. The warm damp air in the bathroom ought to reduce the inflammation in the air passage and make it easier for the child to breathe. Alternately, you might also try cool damp air by covering up your child with a light blanket and then taking him/ her outside, exposing them to the night air. Instead of taking the little one out at night, you can also do this by opening the deep freezer or putting on the air conditioner and let the child inhale the air for some minutes.

Moreover, you may take your suffering child for a stroll in a baby carriage in your backyard or around the block for about 15 minutes. When you take them for a walk like this, it will enable them to obtain some fresh air, which may be of help to them. However, before taking the child outdoors, ensure that the weather conditions are not extreme and the child has been dressed up properly.

When your child has developed croup, it is more important to give him/ her liquid food compared to anything solid. It is preferable that you give your child some tepid apple juice to keep him/ her hydrated and also slacken the mucus. It is a good idea to give your child Gatorade, water and fruit juice and ensure that they are taking these fluids in adequate amounts. In addition, you may also give chamomile tea added with honey to your child who is suffering from croup, as this will help to alleviate the inflamed and throbbing throat. However, be careful that you do not give honey to an infant who is below the age of one year.

It would also be excellent if you use a humidifier in the bedroom of your suffering child, as it will help to make the air in the room further damp. In fact, various dissimilar types of scents and humidifiers are available and you can choose from them to make the air in the room moister as well as aromatic. Provided the weather conditions allow, you may also open the window of the bedroom to allow some cool and fresh breeze to fill the room.

In case you child also has fever, you should go to the neighbourhood pharmacy and purchase some Tylenol that is meant for infants and children. This medication is available in drops for babies and may be in a flavoured liquid form for children. While lowering the fever is very important, before you give the child any medication, it is essential that you talk to your physician or pharmacist regarding the appropriate dosage for the child.

When your child is suffering from croup, it is important that you ensure that you help him/ her to get adequate sleep. Sleeping well enables the child's immune system to accumulate its entire energy and fight against anything that is responsible for his/ her ailment. A child who is two or three years old should get 12 hours of sleep, in addition to two to three hours nap on average. If you help your child to get adequate rest and feel relaxed, it will not only speed up the time required for their recovery, but will also help them to get back to their usual active and lively individuality even faster.

While your child is still struggling with croup, it would be a good idea if you also slept with him/ her in the same bedroom. Generally, the bouts of cough occur during the night (although the symptom improves at day time) and when you are sleeping in the same bedroom with your suffering child, it will enable you to alleviate his/ her uneasiness in a better way in case his/ her symptoms deteriorate.

You also need to keep the suffering child in a vertical posture at least for some time, because doing so will help the child breathe more easily. You may place your child in a seat meant for infants or put him/ her in their preferred 'big-girl' chair. Moreover, you may also like to use some additional pillows in the child's bed with a view to buttress the child at night. However, if the croup patient is an infant, you need to put the pillows below the mattress of the baby's bed.

It is important that you don't panic over the suffering of your child. When you are coping with children suffering from croup, you need to do all things possible to keep them calm, as crying may make breathing all the more difficult. For instance, you may cuddle your child or read stories or sing to them with a view to keep them relaxed.

In case the croup developed by your child is more severe than ever or the condition does not appear to improve even after undertaking the above mentioned measures, it is very likely that your pediatrician will recommend epinephrine, steroids or any bronchodilator to reduce the swelling in the air passages and make it easier for the child to breathe. If it is detected that your child is suffering from a bacterial infection - something very unusual in situations like croup in children, your physician will most possibly prescribe antibiotics.

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