The Croup: what parents need to know

The temperature roller coaster continues and those colder temps are keeping those winter-related illnesses around a little longer than usual.

Channel 7's Christina Munoz recently experienced that first hand recently.

Her 19-month-old, Reagan, suddenly couldn't breath Saturday night. She was taken to Baptist Emergency Room and she was quickly diagnosed with the croup.

We didn't know much about it so we asked our pediatric clinic to help explain to others what it is and how to treat it.

"She's breathing really well now," said Dr Jerry Byrum, a pediatrician with All For Kids.

That was not the case for little Reagan Saturday night when she suddenly was struggling to breath.

"If they have retractions, where they breath in and their neck caves in, their chest caves in it means they're working really hard to breath," said Dr Byrum. "Frankly you can die from it it's really severe. If your airway is closed and you can't move the air, it's very serious."

Thankfully most cases are not that severe.

In all cases, there is swelling in the airway that usually causes a unique cough.

"It sounds like a seal barking. And those kids have a really horse cough and sound very distinct," said Dr Byrum.

Once diagnosed, treatment is easy breathing treatments and steroids can reduce swelling almost immediately.

Which is why Dr Byrum tells parents to take their kids to see a doctor if they have that barky cough.

If it's the middle of the night, and a child is struggling to breath, Dr. Byrum said, "First off they need to sit up. Secondly, you can try a hot steam shower. Then, believe it or not, dry them off and wrap them up in a blanket and take them out into the cold night air. Something about that hot steamy environment and cool night air that can help the child breath. If that doesn't help, then you head to the emergency room."

Dr Byrum says whether the croup is contagious depends on what causes it. If it's a viral cold, others can get it. If it's allergies, then they can't. But most kids 3 year old and older won't get the croup because their airway has grown in size.