Natural Treatments for Croup
Croup is a childhood viral illness that causes inflammation of the mucus membrane lining the larynx and trachea. Croup, which tends to occur in fall/winter, is marked by wheezing and a barking cough, laryngitis, and sometimes mild fever. The child typically has more difficulty breathing in than out...inhalations have a “crowing” or whistling sound. Often, croup sounds far worse than it actually is. “False” croup, the most common type of croup, comes on suddenly, usually in the middle of the night. It is displayed by wheezing and a loud, dry cough; episodes can last for hours, subside, and return.
“True” croup can come on more slowly as a common cold. As the child’s cold worsens, he develops accelerated pulse and difficulty breathing. The cough is dry, horse and becomes shrill as the illness worsens. Symptoms are worse at night, better in the morning. The rare concern with true croup is the development of exhaustion and suffocation. True croup tends to last longer than the “false” variety.
[Another larynx-affected illness is acute epiglottitis, a bacterial infection that results in extreme swelling of the epiglottis (the tissue in the top rear of the larynx). The swelling can obstruct air flow, causing hypoxia and death. Epiglottitis appears rapidly, accompanied by a moderate to high fever and swollen epiglottis, with sore throat, extreme respiratory difficulty (child sits up and forward to gasp in breaths), even drooling and cyanosis.]
Croup responds well to natural treatments and exposure to humid air. Often, taking the child outside in moist night air (be sure to bundle child warmly) can alleviate coughing spasms. Steam baths are also helpful during wheezing/coughing attacks. The most effective treatments for croup are those that begin early in the illness, reducing inflammation and possibility of worsening conditions. Herbal and homeopathic remedies are quite effective in treating croup and other childhood illnesses. I always use herbs, essential oils and homeopathy for any given illness. Homeopathy in particular is very useful in combating epidemic diseases and childhood illnesses. The important aspect to using homeopathy is choosing the correct remedy based upon symptomatology.
The following are treatment protocols for croup, as well as coughs in general:
Onion/garlic/honey cough syrup
Simmer one onion and 1 head garlic (all chopped) with enough raw, organic honey to cover them. Simmer at very low heat for up to 30 minutes. Bottle and store in fridge. You can strain off the liquid and serve by the spoonful to a cough-distressed child, but I serve with onion/garlic chunks in the honey. The remedy tastes quite good. Give as often as needed.
Broad spectrum “antibiotics” for infection
Garlic = for acute serious illnesses, ingest as much raw garlic daily as you can. Medicinal dose for severe viral or bacterial illness is at least 1 head daily, eaten with meals or juiced. See my garlic article for more info.
In Herbal Antibiotics, Stephen Buhner says:
Eat one clove 3x daily for prevention. The cloves may be diced and mixed with honey for palatability and to reduce nausea. During acute episodes, 3 to 9 bulbs a day are used by some clinicians. They report that the best way is to juice the bulbs and drink with carrot or tomato juice. ... Garlic is exceptionally pungent and acrid...Care should be taken in consuming it in quantity. Though an entire bulb produces little juice, it is exceptionally potent (and can cause vomiting if consumed all at once). ... The best approach is to start with 1/4 tsp. garlic juice in a full glass of juice and work up from there. ... Frequent doses, from 1/4 to 1 tsp. in 16 oz. juice each hour is a good way to get a large quantity of garlic juice into the system.
Just get as much into your child as you can...the honey syrup is very helpful; or add crushed garlic to butter and put on bread or in salad. Garlic poultices can also be quite useful in combating illness.
Make garlic/ginger “lemonade” by steeping 5 cloves garlic with a few slices fresh ginger root in 1 qt. water for 30 minutes. Strain, add ¼ cup apple cider vinegar and honey and lemon to taste (if avoiding sugars, eliminate honey). Give warm and often.
Colloidal silver = from 3 tsp. to up to 1 ounce ingested daily, mixed with water.
Oregano oil = essential oil: 2 drops 3x daily; herb steeped in carrier oil: up to 3 tsp. daily; Oreganol: up to 3 drops 3x/daily
Echinacea tincture = 20 to 60 drops (lesser amt. for smaller children) 3x daily
Vitamin D (from 1,000 to 4,000 IU daily for acute infection, dose by size) and Vitamin C (1,000 mg/3-5x daily)
Essential Oils for Croup
Rosemary, thyme, eucalyptus, lavender
- Rub on feet and throat/chest/back. For application to throat/trunk, dilute oils = 1 Tb. carrier oil (jojoba, coconut, olive, etc) to 1 tsp. EOs.
- Use a few drops each in warm steam humidifier or steam bath/shower; make steam inhalation with boiling water poured into bowl, create steam tent with towel.
- Diffuse into air with EO nebulizer.
- Spritz into air by adding 10 drops each EO to 1 qt. water in spray bottle.
Antispasmodic, anti-inflammatory, relaxant and expectorant herbs
Lobelia = most important herb for croup, lobelia is a relaxant particularly useful in dilating bronchioles. Because lobelia relaxes sphincters, taking large doses can induce vomiting. This can be cathartic and useful in ridding the body of phlegm. Lobelia is considered by some traditional herbalists as the most important medicinal herb. It removes congestion within the body and purifies the lymphatic system.
Use: 10 drops of lobelia tincture in cup of catnip/peppermint tea, as needed during episodes or 3-5x daily.
Slippery elm bark is a mucilaginous herb extremely soothing to the throat and bronchioles; it also helps to expel mucus (if any is present). To take quickly, mix 1 tsp. SEB powder with 8 oz. cool water, stir vigorously and drink. You can make paste, a warm drink, and SEB lozenges as well.
The following are helpful herbs to be given as infusion (long-steeped tea) or as tincture.
For tincture, add up to 20 drops of combination to 2 oz. warm water, give by tablespoonful every 15 minutes until breathing eases. For tea, add 1 tsp. each herb to steep in 1 quart water; give 1 Tb. every 15 minutes during acute episode, give as drink a few times during day:
- Licorice root
- Marshmallow root
- Wild cherry bark
Homeopathy for Croup
Look for general match to symptoms in following remedies. Sometimes more than one remedy will be useful, but use one at a time as symptoms present. Dosing for homeopathy is not about amount of pellets given, but frequency of dose given. Give 3 pellets every hour; during acute illness episode, dose every 15 minutes. If you see no improvement after multiple doses, you can try another remedy that seems to match symptoms. Often you will see improvement with the remedy within a day or two. Any amount of improvement, however minute, means the remedy is working.
Aconite = most important remedy for first stage of croup. Child wakes from sleep with dry, hoarse, croupy cough...worse at night, particularly after midnight. Child has fever, skin is dry, hot, red. Child restless, perhaps anxious, and irritated by sore throat...loud breathing while exhaling, but quiet while breathing in. Exhalations end with hoarse cough. Aconite given for initial stages of croup, bronchitis, pleurisy, and pneumonia.
Antimonium Tart. = Advanced stages of croup. Breathing seems it may stop altogether. Breathing sounds as if clogged by mucus, but none coughed up. Respirations shrill, horse, whistling...chest expands with great difficulty, head thrown back in order for child to breathe. Forehead may be covered with sweat, perhaps even body.
Belladonna = for croup cases that come on suddenly, in which pains leave just as suddenly. Great heat of head, fever, red face, red eyes. Larynx very sore, when throat touched, child feels he might suffocate. Look for bright red throat internally. Dry, barking cough, spasmodic. Child can only breathe in short, shallow breaths...child sleepy but cannot sleep.
Hepar Sulph = Cases of loose, rattling, choking cough; also cases in which air passages seem to be clogged with mucus. Rattling in chest, but child unable to cough it out. Child has violent fits of coughing, seemingly suffocating, perhaps even causing vomiting. Child is irritable...profuse sweat and drowsiness common.
Kali Bi = remedy for “true” croup. Disease comes on gradually, with a cold, then loud hoarse cough as well. As illness progresses, difficulty of breathing increases, air traveling thru trachea sounds as if it were passing thru a metallic tube. Tonsils and larynx are red and swollen. Throat looks as if covered in new membrane. Child inclines head backward to aid breathing, with violent wheezing and rattling in trachea. Child may cough up stringy, yellow mucus.
Phosphorus = Consider this remedy first when child’s voice too hoarse for him to speak...too painful to talk. Whole body trembles from cough...chest constricted. Cough worse when lying down; child wakes at night to sit up to cough. Child may complain of chest feeling tight. Shortness of breath, but normal sound to it. Good remedy for chronic cases of croup. May also be used to follow the actions of other remedies when croup reappears.
Spongia Tosta = For simple “false” croup. One of most important general cough remedies … child’s cough has a dry, crowing, barking, or wheezing sound. Respiration is slow, loud, or wheezing. Can sound as if child is sawing wood. Child prone to fits of suffocation. Can only breathe when head is bent backward. Cough, which is dry in nature, is made worse by breathing. Spongia is considered second-stage croup remedy, after aconitum and before hepar or kali.