Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Treating croup naturally

The mania of last month is thankfully fading fast from my memory, so I wanted to record as much of it as possible to refer to in future, and it may be of use to some of you going through a similar thing. I have self-diagnosed croup as the ailment which laid my kids low for a couple of weeks. There's a link to the Irish Health Service's website about symptoms of croup here. (In short: barking cough, runny nose, high temperature, difficulty breathing...)

To give some background to this: The kids were sick for a couple of weeks at the end of February with something similar, then they recovered and were well for about 7-10 days. In mid-March we had a weekend away, the kids had been swimming a couple of times, eaten lots of cereal with cows milk every morning and drank fruit juice to beat the band. The dairy and sugar definitely dipped their immune systems (my triggers too) because on the drive home our eldest began coughing a dry double cough every twenty seconds. I know because I timed it. It drove me nuts. This continued all day and night and into the next morning where he suddenly had a fever and his first ever headache. I gave him homeopathic remedies orally and lavender essential oil on a cold wet washcloth for his forehead. He was exhausted from coughing and really upset at how ill he felt. He napped and awoke without the headache but still coughed, now a barking cough coming from deep in his chest. Cheeks flushed and feverish but still in ok form.

This went on for a couple of days, he sometimes vomited from the coughing as it was so intense. Flushed cheeks, wheezing at night with his ribcage really working hard to breathe while lying down. He never lost his appetite and continued to chat, drink my homemade lemonade and stay "with it" not lethargic, so I wasn't overly worried that this was a case for a doctor's visit. His cough thankfully turned "wet" where I could hear mucus being moved out of his lungs. We used Vicks (eucalyptus rub) on the soles of his feet and chest at night and daytime too when the coughing was really bad.

Meanwhile his little brother caught the same thing to a lesser extent a few days later. Dry cough, slightly barking sound, fever, slight wheezing. We propped them up on pillows at night, and monitored them all night some nights, readjusting them if they turned over and came off the pillows. Held bowls while they puked, offered glasses and glasses of liquids (a drinking straw made the drinks seem easier to palate). We got donated breast milk and added it to smoothies with echinacea, vitamin D3 drops and their usual multivitamin tablets. We cut out dairy and sugar. Bought grapes and more grapes as they love them. Spent days in bed watching movies or reading. Stayed up late watching over their sick little bodies, ready to turn the light on and grab the sick bowl if needed.  Taught them to blow their noses and explained why they were feeling so bad. Sat in a steamy bathroom reading a book so they could get some relief from the coughing. Woke up with the dawn every morning as their coughing woke them for the day.

The younger boy complained of a sore ear one morning, and had an uncharacteristic nap. I cut a garlic clove, dipped it in olive oil (so the garlic wouldn't irritate the skin) and placed it in his ear as he slept for an hour and he never mentioned the pain again, phew. I got out of the house on Saturday (day 5/6 of the illness) and went to the Dublin Food Co-op in Newmarket square for a wander. There happened to be a herbalist selling bottles of cough tinctures. I bought one for wet and one for dry coughs and spent a day dosing the kids (hid it in my homemade lemonade), and they made swift recoveries after that in a few days. Eldest stopped coughing and wheezing completely though he was still a bit pale for another while. Youngest's cough turned from dry to wet after only two doses of the herbal tincture, and his fever cleared up 24 hours later. This was the first illness in all my time as a mother that I didn't have the magic breastmilk to rely on, and my god I really missed it. So I was extra vigilant about them taking in liquids, and still giving skin to skin when the fevers would rise.

What I learned this time around: (from online support of other moms and researching stuff myself)
  • Coughing is good
  • Fevers are good (I knew that one, but still needed reminding when I was getting panicky)
  • I can nurse my kids back to health even without breastfeeding (though probably not so fast without donor milk)
  • Herbal remedies work! I had made thyme cough syrup before, but this one I bought had lots of other herbs which combined to be a great cure. 
  • Oranges cause mucus (yeah, I was surprised too...)
During this time I was aware of a couple of families who had kids on steroid inhalers and one in hospital with similar symptoms. It was always an option for us to call a doctor or go to the hospital and I considered it a couple of times during the roughest nights. What swung it for me to stick with the natural cures was their form: apart from the physical paleness and reddish eyes, they were still playing around the house and joking as normal. They never stopped eating or drinking and had good appetites. If there was a hint of them getting dehydrated/sicker I'd have called a doctor and considered allopathic medicine. I also took the precaution of keeping them indoors (windows opened for fresh air though) as the weather was cold and wet outside and I know keeping their bodies warm gives their immune system the chance to heal the body without expending energy keeping them warm too. Fortunately they love being stuck at home and didn't complain about not leaving the house.

I'm not advocating this line of treatment for your family,  everyone has to weigh up their own situation and if in doubt always consult your healthcare professional. There are some tips here that would work for all coughs and colds, so I hope you find them useful. They both recovered to full health within two weeks, and were back to normal life again after about 10 days.

Fingers crossed we get a run of good health to go with this sunshine now!
Please share any tips you have dealing with children's coughs or fevers below,
Nee x

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