Croup is a childhood respiratory condition that affects the windpipe, the airways to the lungs, and the voice box. Here, certified Sleep Sense Consultant Judy Clark shares her thoughts on how to treat croup in babies and toddlers.

As a parent it is heart breaking when your child is unwell. My daughter is three and every winter she suffers from croup. It breaks my heart hearing her cough through the night; coughing which sometimes lasts for hours.

A few days ago, I decided to time how long she had been coughing… one episode lasted 37 seconds. This experience was traumatic for me and my daughter. I am sure other parents have gone through the same thing, which is why I decided to blog about it.

What is Croup?

Probably the most common form of illness in very young child during winter months, is a distinctive barking cough along with rough sounding breathing and a hoarse voice. It is a viral infection and can be serious enough to warrant a hospital visit for treatment. It goes without saying, of course, that such a condition has a significant effect on a child’s sleep patterns. It is quite possible that they will get very little sleep, so measures need to be taken to alleviate this problem.

Croup most commonly occurs in children (and especially boys) aged from six months to three years. The illness can last for several days if caused by something like the parainfluenza virus. However allergic reactions which can lead to a bout of croup, tend to last for much shorter periods but come around more often.

In general, the croup illness is thought to be mild and can usually be treated at home using simple methods:

1. Keeping children upright is best when helping children through croup so building up the pillows in their cot or bed would be a sensible plan. Pillows with babies are not recommended because of the risk of suffocation. Instead, try securely raising the cot at one end.

2. Try to ease crying as quickly possible as crying can actually aggravate the condition.

3. Moist air in the room is a big help and this can be provided by cool-mist humidifiers or, if not available, sitting with the child in a steamy bathroom will be beneficial.

4. Obviously having restricted breathing is likely to frighten a young child so it is essential to comfort them to prevent undue distress.

5. With toddlers, rubbing a bit of Vicks on the soles of their feet and putting socks on them works wonders!

The key thing with croup is that it is a short-lived illness in most cases and the constant presence of a caring parent can work wonders, even during the night.

If possible, being in the room to monitor their sleep is a good course of action, providing both reassurance and the occasional drink of water for the child. Hydration is very important and certainly alleviates the barking cough which some have likened to the sound that a seal makes.

If symptoms are severe and/or you are unsure please seek medical advice. Along with the care described above, plenty of sleep is essential if you are to get on top of this problem quickly.

Ultimately prevention is the best cure and good hygiene helps – sterile surfaces, clean hands etc all contribute to a healthy environment for a young child. Establish good habits and there is a good chance that this type of ailment will not affect your child at all and their sleep will remain undisturbed.

(We always advise you to discuss any issues with your GP or health care provider as Herts Baby Limited cannot be held responsible for any loss, damage or inconvenience caused as a result of any inaccuracy or error within its website pages).