Croup Vs. Asthma

An interesting thing happened this past weekend.

My attention was drawn to an article on Scary Mommy about an Australian mom, Sophie Cachia, who featured a video clip of her baby having an asthma attack on her Instagram account, as awareness to other parents on what an asthma attack looks like. If you haven’t seen the clip, I encourage you to do so.

I found all this interesting because as a mom, I’ve been there, done that, and gone through a lot, so, I know just how worrisome or terrifying something like a respiratory condition can be, even if it isn’t your first experience with it. Both of my kids have a history of Croup and my son had a small asthma attack once before already, but he isn’t diagnosed as asthmatic. No matter how many times I go through any of these common respiratory illnesses, it’s always just as scary and I worry just as much for my child.

I thought it was a great idea that this Australian mom thought of posting this! It’s common for parents to be unsure if what they are witnessing happen to their child is cause for concern or when it’s the right time to get help. Brilliant! Way to go Sophie Cachia! Points out to you, I thought!

That was mid-day Saturday that I came across this post. Little did I know then, that I would be in the hospital ER mid-day Sunday (yes, the VERY next day, 24 hrs. later) with my son for an asthma attack!

Although a seasoned veteran when it comes to these respiratory issues, I too, was a bit unsure about what was happening. Was it a Croup attack? Was it an asthma attack? Is his chest moving enough to be considered an ‘attack’? Is he wheezing, having a barking cough? I wasn’t sure! Should I try one of the tricks I’ve learned throughout the years or head straight to the hospital? Albuterol or saline?

Turns out it was diagnosed as an asthma attack. I attempted to get my son home immediately to see if a steamy bathroom would help him breathe better, which is usually what happens in the case of Croup, but he continued to deteriorate.

Then I began to think, he doesn’t have that barking or seal cough; Maybe this wasn’t Croup, but an actual asthma attack. His chest looked exactly like Sophie’s baby. Should I try and give him Albuterol inhalations? I didn’t want to risk it. I wasn’t sure and if it was Croup, Albuterol should not be given! He was unusually quiet and getting clammy, sweaty, even though the a/c was on. I finally decided to have him rushed to the nearest hospital ER, where they immediately began several Albuterol treatments and gave him some oral steroids.

3 or 4 hours later (seemed like forever and he was so close to being admitted), he was better and we were released with instructions for continued care at home.

This morning we visited his pediatrician, where I got a great lesson on Croup versus Asthma that I though was worth sharing!

 

 

Croup

  • Viral illness (this means antibiotics do not help)
  • Causes narrowing of airways; narrowing of voice box and windpipe
  • More prevalent with change of seasons, primarily around Fall and winter, and in the North
  • Affects breathing IN
  • Symptoms worsen at night
  • Most notable symptoms include a ‘barking’ or ‘seal’ cough (sounds almost like a dog or seal) and a visible struggle to breathe (chest heaves in and out as child struggles to breathe)
  • Higher than normal temperature

Treatment

In severe cases, a steroid is given and should keep the illness under control for about 48 hours. My son has been given a steroid injection at the hospital when he was a toddler. Albuterol is NOT given to a child suffering from Croup as it could make symptoms worse. Rather, inhalations of Saline are effective.

Ways I Keep My Child’s Croup Under Control

All the following can be done as many times as needed. I like to start these practices as soon as I hear that distinctive ‘barking’ cough until the cough sounds normal again and child seems to be under no more distress.

  • Letting a hot shower run (at its hottest temperature) so that it fills the bathroom with steam. The steam helps to hydrate the voice box/vocal cords and helps to open the airways again.
  • Immediately after the steam, expose my child to some type of cold air. Pediatrician told me not to be afraid to putting them in front of an open freezer (clothed, of course)! If it’s a chilly night, just taking them outside helps. Also, a car ride with the a/c on or the windows down if it’s chilly out (some parents find that the ride in the car on the way to the hospital alleviates the symptoms by the time they arrive).
  • Saline spray through the nose or via nebulizer machine.
  • Humidifier in room (some people prefer a vaporizer and say it works).
  • I like to diffuse high quality Eucalyptus Oil in room throughout the night
  • I like to rub high quality Eucalyptus Oil at the bottoms of my kid’s feet and sometimes on their back where their lungs would be.

When in doubt and/or if nothing seems to alleviate symptoms, seek emergency medical assistance… go to the hospital! Call 9-1-1 if child begins to change color (blue is not good, people!), has extreme difficulty or even stops breathing, or if there are drastic changes in mood/behavior!

For more great info and helpful videos on Croup, visit:

https://www.asthmafoundation.org.nz/your-health/other-respiratory-conditions/croup

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X1FoWWD_on4

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qbn1Zw5CTbA

 

 

 

Asthma

  • Genetic susceptibility and/or environmental factors (http://acaai.org/asthma/about, para. 2)
  • Shortness of breath and wheezing sound as child breathes OUT
  • coughing
  • “two types of asthma: allergic (caused by exposure to an allergen) and non-allergic (caused by stress, exercise, illnesses like a cold or the flu, or exposure to extreme weather, irritants in the air or some medications),” (http://acaai.org/asthma/about, para. 3). My son has only experienced non-allergic asthma twice that was brought on by exercise (he’s VERY active) while he seemed to have a cold (normal cough, slight congestion)
  • visible difficulty breathing in the chest; tightness of chest (as in Sophie Cachia’s Instagram post)

Treatment

  • PREVENTION is key! I usually need to be aware of when my son has a cold or cough so that I can try to keep him calm and limit his physical exertion. We’ve learned to keep him from training or sports during a persistent cold. Learn your child’s triggers and avoid them!
  • There are “quick-relief” or “long-term” (https://www.cdc.gov/asthma/faqs.htm, para. 12) medications when it comes to treating asthma and medications may vary depending on the individual.
  • Asthma attacks, or flare-ups, are usually treated in the hospital with a series of nebulizer treatments. Steroids are usually also administered and, like croup, keeps another attack from happening. My son was given several little steroid tablets to be taken orally and two rounds of 3 doses of Albuterol via nebulizer (w/ something else; I forget the name… you know, one of those complicated medical names), per round. If he didn’t improve enough after the second round, he would have been admitted. However, my son did improve and we were discharged with instructions to do an Albuterol treatment via nebulizer at home every 4 hours for the next 72 hours. Then, if there is significant improvement, we could gradually decrease the Albuterol treatments because it should never be halted abruptly when prescribed over long periods of time. However, any sign of fever or another flare-up and we were instructed to go back to the ER or pediatrician.
  • Inhalers are sometimes recommended to help control a flare-up

Ways I Keep my Child’s Asthma Under Control

  • Since I already know my son is susceptible to a non-allergic type of asthma that seems to be caused by physical exertion while having a cold or cough, I limit his physical activity when he displays a cold or cough of any type.
  • My son does not seem to have any allergies so I don’t worry about avoiding anything in particular, but I like to do the following while he is sick or has a cough:
  • I like to diffuse high quality Eucalyptus Oil in room throughout the night
  • I like to rub high quality Eucalyptus Oil at the bottoms of my kid’s feet and sometimes on their back where their lungs would be.
  • I have also learned that because my son is susceptible to respiratory illnesses, also triggered by changes in weather or temperatures, I start Albuterol treatments via nebulizer at home if he displays a persistent cough that DOES NOT sound like croup (remember, Croup = NO Albuterol; Croup = Saline). I’ve learned to travel with a nebulizer system and Albuterol. My pediatrician allows me to keep a supply of Albuterol at home for whenever I feel any of my kids needs it and I’ve learned to determine when it is needed and how often.

Again, and I can’t stress this enough, when in doubt and/or if nothing seems to alleviate symptoms, seek emergency medical assistance… go to the hospital! Call 9-1-1 if child begins to change color (blue is not good, people!), has extreme difficulty or even stops breathing, or if there are drastic changes in mood/behavior!

For more great info and helpful videos on Asthma, visit:

http://acaai.org/asthma/about

https://www.cdc.gov/asthma/faqs.htm

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PzfLDi-sL3w

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