Barbara Roberts, Homeopath



Croup is inflammation of the larynx (voice box) and trachea (windpipe), making it harder to breathe and producing a dry, barking cough. It usually affects children under the age of 4, who have had a mild upper respiratory infection and then wake at night with difficulty breathing and a loud, dry, barking cough. There may be stridor – high pitched noises while breathing in – or in severe cases (which medical assessment) there can be skin drawing in between the ribs when breathing, and blueness around the lips from low oxygen. Croup is distressing for both the child and the parents watching them struggle to breathe, cough and cry.

Croup can be caused by a wide variety of viruses, included the Omicron variant of Covid-19.

What you can do to help (if you don’t have homeopthy on hand):

Taking them outside into the cooler night air can reduce the symptoms.

Or, taking them into the bathroom, turning the shower on and sitting in the warm, humid air, usually for 10 minutes or more.

Anxiety makes the breathing worse, so try to keep yourself calm so you can support them to calm down.

Doctors will sometimes prescribe a steroid to reduce the inflammation so the croup stops.

Prednisolone given in the morning for two days is most commonly prescribed, it is available as an oral solution, Redipred. Dexamethasone is more effective option, because it has a longer half-life and one dose can last 72 hours. Unfortunately, Dexamethasone suspension is not readily available in community Pharmacies in New Zealand. Pharmacies can compound the mixture from tablets, but this may depend on the doctor knowing they can prescribe the mixture this way, and Pharmacies being willing to do so. Steroids need to be given with food, and can cause hyperactivity as well as keeping the child awake at night if given too late in the day.

Homeopathy, in my opinion, is the best and most effective option. The trio of remedies I talk about below have been used for around 180 years and was sold at Pharmacies for years as Boenningnhausen’s Croup Powders.

Firstly, Aconite. This is a remedy for dry coughs that come on suddenly. It is also used in the early stages of many upper respiratory infections where they come on suddenly after exposure to a cold dry wind. They may have a high fever and be restless and thirsty, and the time of aggravation is usually late at night or around midnight. Aconite is also a remedy for panic and they may feel like they cannot breathe and be extremely anxious and fearful.

Secondly, Spongia Tosta. This remedy is made from toasted sponge, and like a dry sponge it is as if all moisture has been sucked out of them, the cough is dry, with that distinctive sound like a seal barking. The breathing is harsh and dry, and the cough can sound worse and worse, with the harsh sound and no expectoration.

Thirdly, Hepar Sulph. In later stages of croup there is still the harsh, croupy sound, but now the cough is producing phlegm. It may just sound like mucus in the airways, or be quite phlegmy to the point of choking. If they do spit the phlegm out it would be thick and yellow. In this stage they may be sensitive to drafts, and opening the door to let in fresh air may make them cough more.

In my experience with croup, if you can get onto it early with the Aconite you may not need the Spongia, and I have never had a client need to use the Hepar Sulph after administration of the Aconite and Spongia. Boenninghausen used 200c and kept dosing 2-4 hours apart, but I much prefer the 30c potency, which is readily available over the counter in Pharmacies and Health Shops, and means you can repeat the dose every 10-15 minutes.

If you are new to Homeopathy here is how to use the remedies: give one dose up to every 10-15 minutes for up to six doses. If there is no change after three doses then stop or change the remedy- note there may be a change in something else first, including a positive change in mood or energy to show the remedy is working. If symptoms change then it is time to change the remedy to fit the new symptom picture.

If none of the above remedies sound right for your child and croup please send me a message and make an appointment for an acute consult. While these remedies will make a difference for over 80% of children, we are all different and there are actually over 100 remedies that have croup in their symptom picture.

If you are concerned at anytime then please ring Healthline on 0800 611 116 to talk to a registered nurse or take your child to the closed A&E. Some things in particular to watch out for that require further support: difficulty breathing so that they cannot walk or talk, stridor that is getting worse, in drawing of the skin around the neck and chest, pale or blue around the mouth, difficulty swallowing, signs of dehydration, or if they are very sleepy and difficult to waken.

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