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Croup vs. Whooping Cough

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  • 0:04 Sick Children
  • 0:30 Croup
  • 1:15 Croup Causes & Treatment
  • 2:27 Whooping Cough
  • 3:16 Whooping Cough Causes…
  • 4:28 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Justine Fritzel

Justine has been a Registered Nurse for 10 years and has a Bachelor's of Science in Nursing degree.

In this lesson, we will learn about two types of cough that often affect children: croup and whooping cough. We will help identify ways to differentiate the two.

Sick Children

Benji and Dalton are both 6-month-old baby boys that have been generally healthy. It is cold and flu season, however, and both of them are showing signs of the common cold. Benji had a runny, stuffy nose along with some sneezing and coughing that started in the last couple of days. Dalton had a mild fever and cough along with a runny nose.

Let's follow these babies to see what they have.

Croup

Although Benji started out with pretty basic symptoms, after a couple days, his mom noticed he was getting worse. His voice became hoarse and he now had a low grade fever. Later that night, he woke up with a horrible cough that sounded like a seal barking.

Croup is an upper airway infection that usually occurs in young children because their airway is so narrow. It usually starts like a simple cold but the swelling caused by the infection affects the vocal cords, windpipe, and airways leading into the lungs, which narrows their small airways even more.

The defining characteristic is the barking cough which is caused by air being forced out through the narrowed airways. Sometimes the child may also have a high pitched sound on inhalation for the same reason.

Croup Causes and Treatment

Croup is usually a viral infection, meaning that it was caused by a virus and antibiotics are not effective against it. The most common culprits are the parainfluenza or influenza virus, which is the same viruses that cause the common cold or flu. Croup is contagious for the first three days after the illness starts and until the fever resolves. It is spread through droplets from coughing or sneezing.

Treatment of croup is typically managed at home and rarely is hospitalization required. Young children should not be treated with cold medicines.

Comfort your child and try to keep them calm to avoid crying which worsens the coughing. Hold them upright and sit with them to read books or other engaging activities. Keeping them in an upright position will help them to breathe better. Tylenol can be given to treat any fever. Furthermore, ensure your child stays well hydrated. Holding your child in the bathroom while a hot shower is running can produce steam that helps calm your baby's cough. Symptoms are worse at night, so you may want to sleep close by to attend to your child if they have a coughing fit.

Croup is common and generally not a serious illness. It is usually resolved with home treatment within five days.

Whooping Cough

Dalton continued his cold symptoms for a week. Then, sporadically, he started having coughing fits. He would cough so rapidly and continuously that he couldn't breathe and then he would gasp for air when a small break would occur. He would even throw up after coughing so hard.

Whooping cough, also called pertussis, involves coughing fits followed by a high-pitched 'whoop' in order to breathe. This can affect any age but is more serious in young children.

It starts with typical symptoms of a cold that will last a week or two. Then, the coughing fits start. The coughing is so severe that it often causes vomiting and it is exhausting. As the illness progresses, the coughing increases and worsens and it can last up to ten weeks! In fact, in China they call it the '100 day cough'!

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