Croup

Need immediate croup information? I found MayoClinic.com helpful.

I think it would be quite helpful for the hospital to send home a note with every newborn… something like this:

Please note: at some random time over the next five years, probably in the winter, your child will wake up in the middle of the night unable to breath properly. They will likely be barking like a seal or a dog. They will probably be quite distressed, and you will probably think they are about to die, and will become quite distressed yourself. Welcome to croup.

And, indeed, this is exactly what happened in our family yesterday.

Things started off normally: Oliver went to bet about 8:00 p.m., and Catherine followed shortly thereafter — exhausted from a day at the Jack Frost Festival for Freezing Parents. I got to bed about midnight. And at 1:03 a.m. I awoke to the aforementioned seal barking sound, and found Catherine in Oliver’s room, with a very distressed little boy, pointing at his throat and quite concerned that it didn’t seem to work anymore. He was shivering. And wheezing. And trying to cough by unable.

I was absolutely sure he was going to stop being able to breath completely Any Second Now.

So Catherine and I got dressed faster than we ever have before, and we all piled into the car for a mad dash to the Emergency Room at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital — a 10 minute drive during the day, but we did it in about 4 minutes what with the lack of traffic and the panic-induced creative driving techniques I employed.

Whereas almost all previous visits the the Emergency Room had placed us 374th on the triage list, leaving us to stew in the waiting room safe in the knowledge that gunshot victims et al were getting treated ahead of is, last night we were whisked into the special “pediatric resuscitation” room, and before I knew what was happening Oliver had a mask on, and a dedicated team of experts swarming all round, looking calm and collected, and like this happens all the time (apparently, it does).

Oliver, it seems, was having his first experience with “the croup.” And he was having a barn-burner of an experience thereof.

It took about an hour before any sort of normality returned (i.e. all three of us stopped shaking): they gave Oliver various powerful “stop the croup symptoms” drugs through the magical face mask, and within about 15 minutes of arriving the worst was over. I think I saw his pulse max out in the 190s at the worst of it. After about 30 minutes he was breathing somewhat normally. When they took the mask off, he complained to the nurse that he had a runny nose — the first words he’d spoken since we’d left home.

At 3:00 a.m., after another check by the doctor and some helpful advice about what to expect over the next several days (like “it might happen again tomorrow, but probably not, but be sure to drop back in if it gets this worse again”), we were off home again. Oliver went right to sleep. I listened to the Voice of Russia for an hour before I was de-paniced enough to get any sleep.

This morning Oliver seems quite fine — to be expected, as the doctor told us that “the croupy ones are always okay during the day.” So, other than being unable to revisit the Jack Frost Fun this afternoon, things are mostly back to normal. We’re biding our time, of course, until tonight around bed time, and hoping that the evil croup monster stays in his cage. I don’t think we could take another night like that so soon.

Everyone at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital was amazing: thank you!

Isn’t parenthood wonderful.

Postscript: a Google BlogSearch for ‘croup’ leads to lots of similar tales. Nice to know we’re not alone.

Comments

Ann's picture
Ann on February 19, 2006 - 20:23

Poor everyone!

I found, in my limited experience with croup, that taking the child out into the cold air is a very good way to get their breathing under control. Just wrap him up well and take him outside. Works especially well in the winter when the air is cold and moist.

Dan James's picture
Dan James on February 19, 2006 - 20:46

Peter,
I had the croup throughout my entire childhood. It started early, around 3-4 years old, and lasted until I was twelve or thirteen. I can remember the horror of waking up not being able to breathe. Here are some helpful tips that helped me suffer through it. I have no idea about the medical benefits of these, they simply helped for me:

1) Vick’s Vapour Rub. Chest, upper lip, and heck, stuff it right in your nose (just the bottom part).
2) Humidifier — Have it pumping all night.
3) Sleep as close to sitting up as possible. Many pillows helps. I think my croup experience is what has allowed me sleep sitting in airplanes so well.
4) If the attack is particularly bad at night boil some water, place it in a bowl, and have Oliver put his head over the bowl. Cover Oliver’s head and shoulders witha blanket. Get him to breath deep and slow. A little Friar’s Balsalm or Vick’s vapour rub in the water helps a lot too.
5) Most important is to calm Oliver down. I can remember waking up terrified not being able to yell for help. That terror would turn into hyperventalating which only seemed to make things worse. Calming him down is very important.

My croup always led to long bouts of bronchitis or pneumonia. Good luck!

Peter Rukavina's picture
Peter Rukavina on February 20, 2006 - 20:18

Update: Oliver didn’t “croup” last night (night #2), and he seems to have settled nicely into a plain vanilla cold. We had him to our GP this afternoon, and his lungs, nose, ears, etc. are all within normal limits. Apparently the Super Powerful Steroid they gave him on Saturday night will have worn off by tonight, so if he’s going to “re-croup,” it will be tonight.

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