Croup is a common childhood virus usually seen in children under 4 years. It causes swelling of the larynx and trachea (the upper airway). Symptoms include hoarseness, runny nose, fever, breathing difficulty and a characteristic harsh, barking cough.

Homeopathic remedies can help you to manage your child’s symptoms of croup. Because the remedies are diluted and shaken many times they are safe to use in even very young children. In addition to homeopathic medicine, parents will want to use a moist environment (such as in the bathroom with the shower running, or a cool mist humidifier, or outside on the porch in the cool air (with the child wrapped up warmly)) to try to relieve the coughing. If a child does not respond to moist air after 10 minutes or if the cough is accompanied by blueness around the mouth, medical attention should be sought.

The four main remedies indicated in croup are Aconite, Spongia, Drosera and Hepar Sulph.

Generally the first remedy indicated in croup is Aconite. It is used in the early stages and is often found in croup that comes on in the Autumn or winter, often after exposure to a cold, dry wind. The child may wake early in the night with a dry, choking, croupy cough. They may sit up in bed and grasp their throat. The dry, hoarse, suffocating cough can have whistling or wheezing on expiration (breathing out) (the wheeze of Spongia is worse on inspiration). The skin is dry, there is restlessness, anxiety and fear.

Spongia is given after Aconite in croup when the cough is dry. It is described as a croupy or harsh cough with loud rasping. The child wakes from sleep before midnight with suffocative constriction of the throat. The cough is worse from excitement, talking, lying down and ice-cold drinks. The cough is better from drinking fluids that are not ice-cold and from eating. The child is anxious (like Aconite) but the wheezing is worse during inspiration (breathing in).

Drosera is sometimes seen in croup. The coughs are described as dry, spasmodic, croupy, with a barking or ringing sound. The spasms of coughing, especially after midnight may end in retching or vomiting. The child may have to support the chest or abdomen (ie hold it) while coughing to reduce the pain. The Drosera cough is worse lying down and can come on as soon as the head hits the pillow. It is also worse eating and drinking. The cough is mostly dry, although there can be some mucous or yellowish sputum.

Hepar Sulph is indicated in the later stages of croup after the mucous starts to rattle. The cough is less dry and more rattling than Aconite or Spongia. There may be lots of deep, wet coughing of thick, yellow phlegm. The cough is worse cold air, eating cold food and exposure to wind. Worse uncovering. Worse in the evening before midnight and towards morning and by deep breathing. The child is irritable, sensitive to touch and cold and feels better in warm, moist weather.

Remedy administration

With croup you will need to be prepared to give the remedy more frequently when the symptoms are severe (i.e. every 10 min) and then less often when things settle (i.e. every ½ hour to every 2 hours) Also, as the symptoms change you need to be prepared to switch remedies.

If the child is in a severe stage and you have given up to 4 doses of a remedy and there is no improvement, change remedies. And of course, if the child is in distress and you are not getting relief from the remedies you should seek medical attention.

Typically in croup Aconite is given first, then we change the remedy according to the symptoms. Often Spongia or Drosera are needed next, followed by Hepar Sulph when the cough loosens and gets a rattle. This may not all happen in one night. Do not be surprised if the croup recurs for several nights, but it should improve and lessen each night instead of getting worse.

If your child has suffered from croup in the past it is a good idea to ask your homeopath to prepare a remedy kit for you to keep on hand. Croup often starts in the middle of the night, not a convenient time to call your homeopath! Also, if you try the above remedies and none have helped you should consult a professional homeopath who will look carefully at the symptoms experienced by your child. For croup that is recurrent it is a good idea to work with a homeopath to find a remedy that will strengthen your child’s constitution and help to prevent further episodes