It was 4 am when I was suddenly woken up by a loud barking cough and crying. I shuffled out of bed and into Charlie’s nursery and I immediately knew something was wrong. Charles was crying softly and with each breath I could hear a high pitched wheeze. I picked him up out of his crib and put my ear to his chest; wheeze with each breath in, rattle with each breath out. Something was very wrong. What I originally had thought was a bad cold, had very rapidly turned into something more serious – croup.
CROUP TREATMENT & SYMPTOM RELIEF
When Charles got sick, I didn’t think anything more of it other than it being a simple cold. I gave him lots of cuddles during the day, warm baths, humidifiers in the living room and his nursery, nasal spray followed by a serious snot suck and multiple breastfeeding sessions during the night when he was uncomfortable. Once the wheezing started though, I knew what we were previously doing to help treat him wasn’t enough anymore. The wheezing told us that we needed to get to the hospital immediately and get him checked out by a physician.
After speaking with Telehealth, we went straight to the emergency department where Charles was diagnosed with croup and given steroids to reduce the inflammation in his airway. The steroids worked within an hour and we noticed an immediate improvement in his wheeze. While the wheeze was starting to get better, we were still told to be on the watch for fevers, shortness of breath and increased pain. We continued to treat his cold and croup symptoms by doing the following:
MY TREATMENTS FOR COLD & CROUP SYMPTOMS
Running steam showers using vapour soap in the bottom of the tub to open his airways
Warm baths before bed and naps to help with his nasal congestion
Cold air humidifiers running 24/7 in the house and his nursery to prevent dryness that can cause airway irritation
Cold air walks to help relieve wheezing by reducing airway inflammation
Lots of fluids (breastmilk, formula, water, pedialyte) – Charles was unable to eat solids during this time because of his congestion and inflamed throat and airway. We kept him on a liquid/puree diet for a few days as he would gag and throw up if we gave him solids.
Encouraged more naps during the day – Charles went from x2 nap day to a x3 nap day in order to get more rest, especially as he was up frequently during the night and only napping for 30 mins at a time.
Low impact play with lots of distractions to keep him occupied
Motrin & Tylenol to help with pain & inflammation – Charles also had ear blockages due to the congestion which was causing him a lot of discomfort.*
*Make sure you speak with your health care provider before starting any treatment or giving medications.
HOW TO MANAGE CROUP AS A CAREGIVER
What no one talks about is how difficult croup is on the caregiver. Leading up to going to the emergency room, Charles cried pretty much non-stop for 2 days. When I say he cried non-stop, I really mean it. Charles was completely inconsolable and spent 70% of his day crying. My usually happy baby was in serious discomfort but I didn’t know why. Was it because he was sick AND leaping? Separation anxiety? Teething? I had no idea what I could do to help him. My mom-gut was telling me that this was more than a cold.
Going to the emergency room was terrifying. Charles was extremely sick when he was born and being back in the hospital, seeing him in pain and having difficulty breathing brought all of those emotions back. While I wanted answers, getting more testing done and waiting for another doctor was a huge trigger for my postpartum ptsd. I am extremely thankful that we were in and out of the hospital in less than 2 hours, I don’t know if I could have handled more.
The steroids worked fairly quickly, but he was still incredibly uncomfortable which made managing his symptoms and mood a 24hr job. By day 4, I was mentally, emotionally and physically drained. Charles would not let go of me, he was all over the place in terms of his mood and I just needed a break. I remember hiding in the bedroom and feeling like a bad mom for not wanting to be around Charles and needing a break from him. I felt guilty because I knew he wasn’t feeling well and was having a really hard time, but being on 24/7 for almost a week was emotionally, physically and mentally exhausting.
MY TIPS FOR BEING A CAREGIVER WHILE CARING FOR YOURSELF
Acknowledge your feelings and don’t judge them
Just because you need a break, doesn’t mean you don’t love your child.
Asking for a break doesn’t mean that you aren’t good enough to be a caregiver or that you are lacking as one.
Ask yourself what you need for immediate self care
Alone time? Hot coffee? Fresh air?
Be truthful about what you need to care for YOU. You cannot care for another human without caring for yourself as well.
It’s okay to set boundaries and rely on others when you are feeling burnt out.
Boundaries can be time, emotional, physical, sexual, intellectual, or any combination of them.
Be clear with others about what they can and cannot do to help you
Know that it’s normal for you to feel this way sometimes and that it’s OK to have days where you need a break
It’s exhausting taking care of a tiny human and wanting a break from being needed. It’s totally normal and understandable. We are our hardest critics and just because you feel like you need a break doesn’t mean you’re selfish or a bad parent.
If there’s one other thing I’ve learned after Charles’s first bought of croup, is that some days are simply about surviving to the next nap and that’s okay. Take each hour, day or week at a time and give yourself a break, you’re doing a great job.