Croup: When a Baby Sounds like a Dog Barking

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Croup is a sickness that occurs in babies when they’re having difficulty breathing. The baby’s upper airways have become irritated and swollen, making the vocal cords narrow. Breathing then becomes noisy, resulting in coughing that has been said to sound like dog barking or a high-pitched seal. When the baby cries, their voice sounds very raspy. This condition is more common in boys than girls, is more likely to occur during the fall and/or winter, and children between the ages of 3 months to 5 years are at the most risk.

Croup can either be viral or spasmodic, resulting from an infection. Viral croup affects the larynx (voice box) and the trachea (windpipe). The culprit virus is called parainfluenza. At first the baby will seems like they just have the common cold, but once the dog barking cough occurs, the condition becomes concerning. Fever can result and the baby will make wheezing sounds.

Spasmatic croup results from allergies or possibly acid reflux in the stomach. The contents of the baby’s stomach begin to move up the esophagus. This comes upon suddenly, particularly in the middle of the night the baby will start to cough.

Anytime a child has difficulty breathing it is important to seek medical attention. The baby is uncomfortable and will need treatment. A lot can be done at home. The key is to help keep the baby calm. Crying and getting worked up will only make the condition worse. Using a humidifier can help get out moisture into the air. This can also be done in the bathroom using a hot shower and sitting in the steam for about 10 minutes with your baby. Keeping the baby hydrated is also important. Fluids, especially warm ones, can help loosen up mucus and clear the vocal cords. Keeping the head elevated can also help. Propping the baby’s head up with pillows can help alleviate breathing problems. If the symptoms last longer than 5 days, contacting a doctor is recommended.

Croup is contagious and can be spread airborne. It can be spread by touching doors, toys, furniture, and other objects. Croup usually lasts 5 to 7 days, with the first 72 hours being the most contagious. It will resolve within two weeks. Being so uncomfortable to sleep is certainly disruptive to both the baby and guardians. Resolving the condition as soon as possible lets everyone rest easier. Coughing is germ spreading and croup is spread among children as they play and interact with one another. Stop croup in its tracks as soon as the first dog bark cough occurs.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3796596/

https://academic.oup.com/pch/article/22/3/166/3852394

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4178284/ https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/croup/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20350354

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Megan Johnson McCullough owns a fitness studio in Oceanside CA called Every BODY's Fit. She has an M.A. in Physical Education & Health Science, is a current candidate for her Doctorate in Health & Human Performance, and she's an NASM Master Trainer & Instructor. She's also a professional natural bodybuilder, fitness model, Wellness Coach, and AFAA Group Exercise Instructor.