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It’s Croup Season

Well, I got bit by the croup bug. Actually, my oldest child developed croup 2 weeks ago. Up until then, he had never had a respiratory infection except for a mild runny nose. At first I didn’t realize it was croup until he was 2 days into it. Need less to say, the whole croup episode lasted for 4 days and I am now dealing with symptoms of the common cold in both him and his 9 month old brother.

What is Croup?

Croup is an inflammation of the upper airways – vocal cords, wind pipe and bronchial tubes. It is mostly caused by a virus –  parainfluenza, respiratory syncital virus or adenovirus. On occasion it could be caused by a bacteria. Children between the ages of 3 months and 3 years are the most vulnerable. That is not to say that children older than 3 years cannot catch croup. Fall/winter is the most common time of the year for croup to rear its ugly head.

Signs and symptoms

Croup usually start with a runny/stuffy nose and fever followed by a hoarse voice as the upper airways become inflamed. The hallmark of the disease is a harsh barking cough that sounds like a seal. Symptoms are worse at night and when the child is upset or crying. Croup is highly contagious. Please keep your children at home if you suspect they have croup.

Things to look out for and be concerned about:

High pitched/squeaking noise with breathing in –  this is known as stridor

Retraction around the ribs during breathing

Fast breathing/difficulty breathing

Pale/bluish colour around the mouth

If child is less than 6 months and having difficulties breathing, go right to emergency.

If your child exhibits any of these symptoms and they are not playing or can’t sleep or they seem to be struggling with breathing, get medical attention immediately.


There are actually lots of natural remedies that work great for croup. If started at the first sign of symptoms, it’s the difference between your child going to emergency and getting pumped full of steroids or hanging out at home watching Toy Story on repeat.

1. Don’t panic. It can be very scary for both parents and kids when breathing becomes laboured or the cough starts. The calmer the child, the less likely for the coughing to progress.

2.  Most parents are told to bundle up the child and put them outside in fresh cool air. This does not work for all children. Running a cool air humidifier also works. My son definitely did worse in the cold air and he preferred moist warm heat. Run the shower and place a few drops of essential oil (eucalyptus, thyme, lavender) in the shower to steam and have child inhale deeply. Opening the window at night for some fresh cool air was helpful.

3.  An aromatic chest rub works well especially at night and allows everyone to sleep a little better. Rub the front and back of the chest with the aromatic rub. If possible have your child sleep with you so you can monitor their breathing.

4. The following are herbs that are immune modulating, and antiviral: elderberries, andrographis, licorice root, peppermint, chamomile, lemon balm, catnip, echinacea, thyme, cinnamon and reishi mushroom. I only prescribe and use glycerites in young children. Please consult a naturopathic doctor or trained herbalist for a custom formulation. I recently formulated a natural fever reducer that works as well as acetaminophen.

5. Give lemon and honey as a soothing warm drink.

6.  Eliminate all sugar and processed foods from the diet. If at all possible make your own bone broth and give several cups per day. Make sure the bones are organic. Don’t be surprised if your child is not interested in eating during this time period. Keep them hydrated. Try to stay away from fruit juice they offer no nutritional value and are loaded with sugar.

Are there other natural remedies that have proven effective for you?