February 12th, 2013 posted by Gwenn Schurgin O'Keeffe, MD, FAAP

by Gwenn Schurgin O’Keeffe, MD, FAAP

Dr. Gwenn Schurgin O Dr. Gwenn Schurgin O’Keeffe, MD, FAAP Dear Dr. Gwenn, My 8 year old daughter was diagnosed with croup. I was told to use a cool mist humidifier and give her an expectorant. She has had some coughing episodes that have resulted in her having difficulty catching her breath. How long should croup last and is there anything else I could do to avoid her coughing episodes? I did bring her into a bathroom and turn the shower on to help make it easier for her to breath. Thanks, Sophie K

Dear Sophie:

Croup is a viral illness that is very common during the winter. The reason your daughter is having trouble breathing is the infection targets the trachea, the main airway in the body. Some 8-10 year olds do get true croup but it is much more common in younger kids who have smaller airways. Older kids, like your daughter, can get a croupy cough but it is often not true croup. Because croup involves the airway itself, it can be very scarry and some kids do have significant trouble breathing. The advice you were given is right on the mark for the typical cases of croup. Cool mist relaxes the airway and the expectorant will help break up congestion. Steam helps make kids feel better especially if their noses are stuffy but doesn’t help relax the cough from croup as much as cool air does. Going out on the front stoop for a few minutes sometimes does the trick. Croup usually develops after a few days of a cold then becomes intense for 2-3 more days before subsiding. Most kids do fine at home but some kids do need special medical attention due to the trouble breathing. You would not want to “wait that out” but call your doctor or go to the nearest ER if she is really struggling. Best, Dr. Gwenn

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Gwenn Schurgin O'Keeffe, MD, FAAP (36 Posts)

Pediatrician, Dr. Gwenn Schurgin O'Keeffe, MD, is a board-certified pediatrician and Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Dr. Gwenn is an experienced columnist, educator, and practicing pediatrician. Dr. Gwenn strives to write as if she were talking to a parent. As a parent herself, she knows how important it is to obtain information but also understand how precious little time parents have to find that information on the internet. Pediatrics Now was developed to fill that gap and provide a bridge between the parenting and pediatrics worlds.

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