Illness: Croup, Cough
Coughing is more of a symptom than an illness, in and of itself. When something is obstructing or irritating her airways, her brain signals the muscles in her abdomen to thrust air through her lungs to toss out anything that should not be there. A cough from a cold or other illness can continue after the other symptoms of the illness have passed.
Croup is typically caused by one of several viruses. It infects the upper airways, including the vocal chords, and produces swelling and tightness that result in a cough that sounds more like a bark. It may be accompanied by stridor, a raspy sound made when inhaling. Usually, the cough from croup is worse at night than it is during the day. Crying can make swelling and coughing worse.
Croup may last about a week; it usually peaks at three or four days. Most of the time, croup is not serious and resolves on its own. It is contagious, however, and spreads much the same way as the common cold and other respiratory infections do.
Whooping cough, or pertussis, is a common childhood bacterial infection that features a cough. With pertussis, a baby has long coughing spells that end with her gasping for a breath. It is the baby’s gasp that makes the “whooping” sound. Though there is a vaccine against this disease, outbreaks still occur. Whooping cough is contagious, more serious than croup, and potentially severe in infants. If you suspect your baby has whooping cough, contact your health care provider.
Croup, Cough: Symptoms
- A cold or other viral or bacterial infection
- Itchy or sore throat
- Fever, chills, or sweating
- Headache or body aches
- Rapid breathing
- Poor appetite
- Swollen upper respiratory passage, including vocal chords
- Sore throat
- Seal-like barking cough that is worse at night
- Stridor (raspy sound when inhaling)
Croup, Cough: Causes
- A viral or bacterial infection, such as a cold or bronchitis
- Mucus dripping into airways
- Environmental allergies
- Food sensitivities (common foods are dairy products, refined sugars, carbohydrates, excess fruit juices, hydrogenated fats)
- Overproduction of phlegm from the digestive system
- Nutritional deficiencies
- Poor bowel function
- Hot, cold, or windy weather
- Reaction to a vaccine, especially the vaccine for whooping cough or pertussis
- Physical exertion
- Blockage in the throat or choking
- Damp living conditions
Croup, Cough: Prevention
Since coughs are often related to viral and bacterial infections, frequent hand washing and avoidance of people with colds can help prevent coughs. Beyond those precautions, ensure that your baby is breathing the cleanest air possible.
Be mindful of keeping the air around her free of pollution, potentially harmful chemicals (such as those used in cleaning and laundry products), strong fragrances, dust, noxious gas, woodstove or cigarette smoke, and other environmental irritants. Also, avoid swings when it is cold outside, and dress your baby appropriately for the weather.
Croup, Cough: Suggestions for Care
With a cough, simply remember RASCL (these methods are good for a cold as well):
Rest: Keep your child at home to rest. As she rests, raise the upper end of her crib or bed to facilitate breathing. Be mindful of your baby’s overall condition and energy level. If she is in good spirits, encourage some gentle exercise and activity.
Air: Make sure the air in your home and surrounding your baby is smoke- and allergen-free. If possible, use a cool-mist humidifier (make sure it is clean and free of bacteria) to help thin the mucus and to moisten her respiratory tract. Expose your baby to fresh air, but avoid wind and extreme temperature changes inside and out.
Squirt her nose: Mucus dripping from the nose into the throat causes the majority of coughs in childhood. To clear the nasal passages, use a neti pot or nasal squirt bottle and water containing saline solution, sea salt, or baking soda.
Clap: In a steamy bathroom, with an open palm and with gentle firmness, pat your baby on either side of her back and on her sides ten times, four times a day, to help dislodge mucus.
Laugh: Encourage laughter, playfulness, and fun! The best medicine for a cough is a caregiver’s patience and love.
In general, keep your baby as calm as possible. Coughing can become very uncomfortable and can cause your baby to cry. Crying can increase swelling and irritability in her airways, thus making the cough worse. Also remember that coughing is a protective reflex and should not be suppressed by medication unless instructed by a physician. Over-the-counter cough and cold medication should not be given to children under four years of age. These multisymptom medications can make children drowsy and impair their ability to clear phlegm from their airways.
Food and Remedies for Nursing Mother or Baby Older than Six Months
Healthy foods can bathe an irritated throat, boost the immune system, and ease discomfort from coughing.
- 20 minutes of breathing steamy air from a humidifier or in a bathroom, or breathing an infusion of lavender or chamomile flowers in a bowl of hot water
- Ginger compress or warm water bottle on chest or back
- Bach’s Rescue Cream on pulse points, chest, and upper back
Foods to Emphasize
Intake of warm fluids. If your baby is older than a year, offer warm water with lemon and organic, cold-pressed, pasteurized honey, which has antibacterial properties and soothes sore throats. Serve simple, easy-to-digest, warm foods at regular mealtimes. If her cough is dry, offer warm pear sauce. To break down phlegm, soft-cooked vegetables, stewed fruits, bean soup, or soft-cooked whole grains. Fennel or chamomile herbal tea, kuzu, and Bach’s Rescue Remedy are remedies to relieve cough or croup.
Foods to Avoid
Solid foods (due to choking danger), cold drinks (especially acidic juices, such as orange juice), bread, raw fruits (including banana), raw vegetables, roasted peanuts, peanut butter, dairy (cow’s milk, cheese, and ice cream), sugar, and wheat.
Essential Oils for Baby
Acupoints for Baby
- Lung 1, 5, 7
- Large Intestine 11
- Stomach 36, 40
- Spleen 6
- Kidney 3, 7
Reiki for Baby
For two or more minutes, place your hands on the following parts of your child’s body: front of chest, back (between shoulder blades), sides of chest, lower part of rib cage, and throat.
Massage for Baby
Massage along the lung, spleen, and kidney meridians.
Croup, Cough: Concerns
Most coughs eventually go away on their own. However, a cough may need medical attention or be a symptom of something more serious, such as pneumonia, choking, or epiglottitis (swelling of the epiglottis that closes off the airway). If your child is not improving after several days with a cough, or if she is “whooping,” breathing rapidly, or struggling to breathe, see your health care provider.
Note: The suggestions and ideas in this article are not intended to take the place of professional guidance or treatment; they are meant to complement the advice of your child’s health care provider, caretakers, and educators, while offering consolidated information to help you develop your intuition and make choices that fit with your own personal, religious, or spiritual philosophies. There is no guarantee as to the effects of the use of the recommendations and no liabilities can be taken.