Especially if you're a first time mom, any of your baby's strange behavior or unusual symptoms will send you into a panic. If your baby makes the slightest cough or shows the most subtle sign of lethargy, you'll instantly assume the worst. In most cases, your baby is probably fine. Checking with his or her pediatrician is always a good idea, but the likelihood that your baby has come down with something serious is usually not great. However, there are some serious illnesses that babies are especially susceptible to, and it is important that you know the signs. Croup is one such illness.

Croup is a viral infection that affects a baby's airways. The virus causes serious inflammation, so breathing will be labored and difficult. The most noticeable sign of croup is a loud, barking cough. Since your baby probably doesn't make very many loud sounds besides the usual crying fits, the cough will be unmistakable. The cough will be accompanied by a harsh sounds with every breath. Other symptoms include fever and fatigue, which can be difficult to notice in a sleepy baby.

If your baby has a serious cough, make sure you notify his or her pediatrician right away. Even if it isn't caused by croup, it's almost certainly a sign of an illness or infection. Croup occurs most commonly in children under six years old, and the infection is contagious. If your baby's doctor determines that he or she has croup, medication might be prescribed. In many cases, doctors well recommend that you treat the symptoms without using any prescribed remedies. If the illness is bad and seriously interfering with your baby's ability to breathe, the doctor might actually recommend a type of steroids to give your baby's body the ability to fight it.

Croup is definitely scary for new moms. The cough often sounds frightening, and the sounds of your baby's restricted airways will make you worry about how the next breath will even happen. With proper care and a quick diagnosis, your baby will be able to fight it just fine. It will be a stressful experience, but it's one of the many common baby illnesses that you'll have to deal with as a parent. Though you might overreact to a lot of things, croup or even a serious cough is definitely something you should watch out for and call your pediatrician about immediately.

Source: Candace L Bjornson et al: Croup. The Lancet Volume 371 Issue 9609 pp. 329-339 January 2008

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