What to Expect with Croup in Toddlers

I am not a doctor, and this article is not designed to help you diagnose a sick child. Use this information to help you after a doctor diagnoses your child with Croup.

Croup toddler

What a yucky sickness Croup is. It's typically viral so it just needs to run it's course, but that could last anywhere from 3 days to 2 weeks. It is mostly known for it's horrible barky type of cough, but if you are lucky, typical cold symptoms like runny nose and fever, will also accompany the cough. Croup has an incubation period of 2-7 days before you see signs, so it could be difficult to trace where it came from, but daycare is always the #1 culprit in my book.

Ava is 22 months old and has had all kinds of sicknesses, from ear infections, to pink eye, to hand foot and mouth. I guess we can now add Croup to the list. The first symptom of a deep cough came on suddenly at a friends house over the weekend, and within a few hours it had progressed to Ava waking up and wheezing with troubled breathing and a hoarse throat. Our first thought was that she was having an allergic reaction to our friends 4 chihuahuas, but she had been around them all before. My husband was all freaked out, running back and forth in his underwear saying we needed to go to the emergency room because she couldn't breathe...... I eventually had to tell him to "shut up and chill out" because he was stressing her out which caused her to cry more, which exacerbated the wheezing.

I got her set up on the iPad to watch her favorite show, Octonauts, and her breathing started to normalize although she still had some slight wheezing. We calmly had a discussion that we would wait until the morning to take her to the doctor, and let her sleep in our bed so we could monitor her breathing. She did start running a low fever of about 101F in the middle of the night, so we gave her some children's Tylenol. She woke up multiple times throughout the night, coughing and crying, so it was pretty much a sleepless night.

In the morning Ava seemed to be in good spirits and mood despite the night before. We took her to the urgent care, and they diagnosed her with Croup because the cough was more throaty than in her chest. The only thing they prescribed was a single dose of steroids, so I opted for the liquid versus a shot so that she wouldn't get worked up and upset. Over the next few days, the cough and fever persisted, fever at night mostly until day 3 when the fever began to run almost all day as well, even on medications. She also has had little to no appetite and will barely drink fluids from her normal sippy cup, but has finished all milk provided in bottles.

 What three days of fever and no sleep looks like

What three days of fever and no sleep looks like

Here's what I learned so far:

  • Expect nothing normal to happen when it should. The more you desire it, the more of a let down it is when you don't get it. This means sleep, nap times, quiet time, 5 minutes to yourself, etc.
  • Crying makes the cough worse, and activates the snot machine, so do everything possible to avoid provoking a crying fit. Read the next bullet.....
  • Break your own rules. Yes.... I hate when Ava dumps out all of her toys and flash cards and throws her crayons all over the floor when typically she has to clean up one mess before she can create another. My TV room is a disaster zone right now because any disciplining has caused a meltdown, which leads to a runny nose getting smeared everywhere and precious hydration being lost through tears.
 I did pick up the crayons....

I did pick up the crayons....

  • Let her eat and drink what she wants. Any intake is better than none! Ava eats a very healthy diet normally, but yesterdays meals consisted of mac n' cheese, a milkshake, a small amount of apple juice, and baked beans. Today the most she ate was chips dipped in peanut butter and jelly. This sickness won't last forever and remember, we're avoiding crying fits!
 Milkshake as a meal replacement

Milkshake as a meal replacement

  • Comfort your child regardless of what time it is. Ava tells us it hurts sometimes when she coughs, and when she cries when I try to put her down for naps but she can't stop coughing, I can't be upset with her when she doesn't want to lay down. I even tried the drive in the car trick to let her sleep, but not successful.
  • Take turns with your spouse. You each need to help each other and understand when the dishes aren't done, or the house is a wreck, or you get snippy with each other, because you both are probably exhausted! Don't let your child feel this is their fault, as no one chooses to be sick! Also, don't let them "cry it out" at night as this will make the cough and wheezing worse.

These are all of the things I just learned while trying to make it through this sickness. Maybe it's because I am 33 weeks pregnant, but the exhaustion and lack of sleep is really making me feel like a zombie. After thinking of all of my tips above, I wish I would have just loosened up from the beginning and accepted the fact that things weren't going to be normal for a little bit, and suck it up and take the best care of Ava regardless of how tired I am! 

I hope this helps you if you are ever so lucky to have to nurse a toddler back to health after contracting Croup.

Do you have any experiences to share about your toddler and Croup? Please comment below! 

Happy Recovering! 

Mindy Sullivan