It started with a small cold. And then it turned into the most pathetic-sounding, barking cough I’ve ever heard. My whole family got sick, but my son stayed sick. He couldn’t sleep because of the dry, endless cough that progressed all night long. No humidifier, no hot bath could change the seal-like bark. After two nights spent worrying about my three-year-old boy, Monday morning came and I took him to his pediatrician.
I was going to write this post with my usual fun hyperbole and exaggeration, over telling my concern and foreboding. But truthfully speaking I was very worried. And I guess hyperbole is a little too close to the truth.
Regardless, the pediatrician informed me that it was simply croup, a very common illness in children, especially between the ages 2 and 5, that is brought on by normal viruses. The virus settles in the vocal cords, causing inflammation and irritation, which causes the barking cough and raspy-sounding voice. It also, like most colds, becomes worse at night.
Luckily, there is prednisone: steroids decrease the inflammation in the vocal cords and allows the throat to heal from the virus. It can heal on its own, apparently, with a week or more of persistent, tearing coughs, but the steroids heal the croup symptoms in a few days.
Further treatment does include hot, humid conditions, like a steamy shower or bath. And, seemingly contradictory, cold, dry conditions. The two work on the croup in differing ways. The hot, humidity draws blood to the throat, which sponsors healing. The cold mitigates the inflammation in the vocal cords.
So, after taking a long walk in the brisk, autumn air, bathing in a hot tub, and drinking a teaspoon of prednisone, my boy slept great Monday night, and woke up without a sign of croup Tuesday morning.
What persisted for 5 days was another matter entirely. Apparently the prednisone has a side effect that can sometimes be experienced in toddlers. My boy was bouncing off the walls. Literally. He was running up the sides of walls and jumping off of them. He could not stop moving. And he was so LOUD! I mean, he always is loud, but the five days preceding his steroidal treatment were an amplification of everything wild in his body. I almost swore off all steroid medicines after that.
But then I remembered the terrifying cough in the night.
So, the crazies were dealt with and my boy got better.
Croup in toddlers is scary. Anytime your child is coughing so much they can’t sleep, you don’t sleep either. The worry, concern, it simply goes with the territory of being a parent. But don’t let croup keep you up all night. Go to a doctor. Hopefully your child won’t suffer the side effects of steroids like mine did.
And take a cool, fall walk. It does a world of good.