How Does Spasmodic Croup Differ From A Viral Infection?

Respiratory conditions are illnesses or diseases that affect the respiratory system, which is made up of the lungs, trachea, bronchi, and other structures that help us breathe, per the Cleveland Clinic. There are many types of respiratory conditions, ranging from mild to severe, and they can affect people of all ages. Chronic respiratory diseases (CRDs) are a major cause of illness and death in the Americas and accounted for 534,242 deaths in 2019, as explained by the Pan American Health Organization.

According to the World Health Organization, some common respiratory conditions include COPD, bronchitis, and lung cancer. Spasmodic croup and viral croup are two additional conditions that can affect the upper respiratory system, according to Harvard Health Publishing. The classic symptoms of croup include a hallmark barking cough, difficulty breathing, and a hoarse voice, and the condition is typically seen in children. However, although both spasmodic and viral croup cause similar symptoms, there are some key differences between the two.

Spasmodic croup and viral croup have different causes

According to Harvard Health Publishing, viral croup is more common during the fall and winter months. It is typically caused by a viral infection such as the parainfluenza virus and usually occurs in children between 6 months and 3 years old, says the Mayo Clinic. Viral croup symptoms can range from mild to severe. Besides the barking cough, other symptoms may include fever, sore throat, and noisy breathing, and the condition can last 3 to 5 days.

Spasmodic croup, on the other hand, is not caused by an infection but rather by an allergic reaction and affects children younger than 6 years old, according to Harvard Medical School. The symptoms of spasmodic croup are similar to those of viral croup, including a barking cough. However, the onset of symptoms in spasmodic croup is often sudden and may worsen in the middle of the night, improve during the day, and reoccur again overnight for several days. Immediate medical attention will be needed if the symptoms are caused by a food allergy, warns WebMD.

How are both conditions treated?

A similar treatment measure applies for both viral croup and spasmodic croup. It usually involves supportive care such as comforting and calming your child, says the Mayo Clinic. The clinic says that treatment may also involve your child getting plenty of rest to allow the body to fight off the infection. In some cases, a corticosteroid may be prescribed to reduce swelling in the lungs, and hospitalization may be necessary if the condition is severe.

In the case of spasmodic croup, your doctor may recommend allergy or reflux medications, according to Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health. This may help relieve the symptoms until the episode passes. In both cases, it's important to monitor the child's symptoms closely and seek medical attention if they worsen or do not improve. In addition, you can take steps to prevent the spread of viral infections by helping your child to practice good hygiene, such as washing hands frequently and covering the mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing.