Nothing contained here should be taken as medical advice for any particular case of disease. Whenever in doubt, it is best to seek qualified medical help.
After last week's reposting of the article on Aconite for sudden fevers, it makes sense to continue getting ready for winter with more remedies for croup. Having a homeopathic kit at home (or a little collection of remedies from your local health food store) can save a lot of angst in those late-night cough scenarios.
First, what is croup, exactly? The medical term is laryngotracheobronchitis (that's simultaneous inflammation of the larynx, trachea and bronchii). This inflammation is usually related to a viral respiratory infection in young kids. It often starts after a runny nose. This inflammation causes a swollen membrane to form in the air passages, which vibrates when the child coughs (see video).
The vibration of this membrane is what causes the sawing or barking sound that is characteristic of croup. People can have a croupy, barking cough without actually having croup, but true croup comes with that inflammatory membrane that causes difficulty breathing and a cough like a seal barking or a saw vibrating through a thin piece of wood.
If you watch the video, you'll notice that Justin not only has the sawing cough, he also has a wheezing sound when he breaths in. That's because his airways are inflamed and narrowed. Justin is in a good mood, but many kids with croup wake up in the middle of the night and have difficulty breathing, which is scary for them and for their parents.
You'll notice in the x-ray image below that the airways can be significantly narrowed, which is why if a child is having difficulty breathing, you'll want to get them to a doctor right away. It's fine to give a homœopathic remedy on the way or after you get there, but don't mess around with a child who can't breathe!
You can see how little room is left for the passage of air here!
So, suppose your child just woke at midnight with one of these loud, sawing coughs. Suppose further that he has a fever and was exposed to some cold air earlier in the day. You gave Aconite, and it helped with the child's fear. Perhaps the fever is down, too. The child is breathing fine. But the cough isn't going away, and nobody's getting any sleep.
OR ... suppose the child woke with the same cough but without the super high fever, panic and restlessness we associate with a case of croup that needs Aconite.... What next?
Spongia tosta is the next remedy we commonly consider in a sudden croup like this, especially those that come on between 11 p.m. and 2 a.m.
This cough looks a lot like a cough that needs Aconite, except that the fever and fear will be more prominent in the Aconite case. In this case, the cough will be the most prominent feature, most likely that sawing-wood sound. (A croup that needs Aconite may not be as clear-cut that way.)
The fear in an Aconite case is a fear of imminent death (like, now!), and it comes with a hot red face, a very high fever, restlessness and usually a feeling of numbness and tingling somewhere in the body (sounds like a panic attack, right?). The fear experienced when someone needs Spongia is a more reasonable sort of fear. You just woke in the dark, it's hard to breathe and your throat is making this scary, loud sound.
Sea sponge has been dried out (toasted) to create the
homœopathic remedy, Spongia tosta.
"Spongia officinalis" by Guido Picchetti -
Both types of coughs may be better in the fresh air, but the child who needs Aconite will feel chilled. The child who needs Spongia, on the other hand, will be worse in a warm, stuffy room. Although the child's airways are very dry, taking this child into a hot, steamy shower will not help the cough. Paradoxically perhaps, the child who needs Spongia will feel better from eating warm food or drinking warm drinks. Also, in the child who needs Spongia, the breathing may be easier from sitting up and leaning forward.
So, to summarize, the croup that needs Spongia will also wake the child in the middle of the night, perhaps with a fever and usually in a frightened state. The cough has a sawing sound, is worse when the child lies down in bed and better when she sits up and leans forward. The child wants fresh air and is worse in a warm, stuffy room. The cough will get better while eating warm food or drinking something warm.
Often, the way this plays out is that the child gets Aconite during the initial fright, and if Aconite does not help, or if it only helps to a point, then Spongia is the next remedy given. (There is also a third remedy for children who are very chilly with croup, when the cough is much worse from cold or blowing air - Hepar sulphuris calcareum. More next time.)
How quickly should a remedy help? In an acute complaint like croup, the remedy should help almost immediately. If you haven't noticed an improvement after the second dose, or by the time you're dressed and in the car (you're seeking medical help, right?), it's time to try another remedy.
(Tips for dosing: (1) If you're putting together a collection of home remedies, 30C is a good potency for treating acute conditions; (2) The remedy manufacturers often suggest giving 3-5 pellets in one dose, but I have always found one pellet of the correct remedy to be sufficient; (3) When a remedy is helping, let it help until it stops, then repeat the remedy if still needed; (4) When the symptoms are gone, the disease is gone, and there is no reason to continue dosing; and (5) If at any point the person goes for two or more doses without improvement, re-consider the symptoms to see if a different remedy might be helpful.)