What's Going Around: Potentially serious virus in small children

If you've ever had a child come down with the Croup Virus you'll never forget the sounds of the harsh barking cough. And for some parents who have infants, that barking cough may easily have led to a frantic trip to the emergency room with the fear they were having difficulty breathing.

Promedica Emergency Dr. Rob Wood M.D. says this is the time of year they see a lot of babies for croup. "It's an upper airway inflammation that infects the vocal chords that why when the kids get it, you'll hear this barking cough." says Woods. "It also produces what's called stridor, which is a wheeze that you get when you inhale as opposed to asthma when a wheeze is an exhale that you get."

Dr. Woods goes on to say "In really little children if they've got a bad exacerbation of the croup and they come and we think their breathing really fast or they're not getting enough oxygen by looking at the monitors, those little ones are the ones that end up getting admitted to the hospital."

Dr. Woods says about one out of 10 babies that come into the emergency room end up getting admitted to the hospital, but all will get a standard treatment, "If it's supportive oxygen if they're not maintaining their oxygen saturation a lot of times they'll get steroids to help with the inflammation sometimes you can also give them inhaled epinephrine to also help with the inflammation and swelling as well."

At home, it often helps to bring the child out into the cold, "a lot of times parents will have their kids at home with this barking cough, and by the time they get them in their coat and in the car to come over here, they'll take them outside and the symptoms are better. The cold air shrinks the vocal chords and helps them breath," says Wood, "A hot shower can help by adding humidity, but the warm air doesn't reducing the swelling."

In adults croup is much less serious and plays out as a viral laryngitis. "You get the same sort of thing your voice changes your voice gets deeper, sometimes your voice goes away, but it's all inflammation of the vocal chords." The best treatment is hot tea with honey and lemon and Tylenol or Motrin for the pain.