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Steamy Air Won't Ease Croup

Study finds similar outcomes with humid vs. dry air

WEDNESDAY, July 19, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- Contrary to popular belief, humid air does not relieve the coughing and wheezing of croup in children, a new study shows.

"Typically, you get people to run a hot bath or shower in the bathroom. Or you get them to boil a kettle in the room, or have hot water in the corner of the room. That's the kind of first-aid advice that is often given at the point of first contact with a health-care professional," lead reviewer Dr. Michael Moore, a family doctor at Three Swans Surgery in Salisbury, England, said in a prepared statement.

In the study, published in the current issue of The Cochrane Library, Moore and his colleagues analyzed data from three studies of 135 children with croup who were seen in a hospital emergency department.

The outcomes for children treated with moist air did not differ significantly from those who received no treatment, the researchers found.

"We haven't shown any benefit from using the moisturized air in the emergency department, and there's no particular reason to think that it would work better at home," Moore said.

Croup, usually caused by a viral infection, leads to swelling in the upper part of the airway and affects the voice box. Because they have narrower airways than older children and adults, young children are especially susceptible to croup.

"I think that probably the successes that were attributed to humidity in the past were due to the calming effect of the parent believing that they were doing something, the child taking deeper breaths, the child getting over the spasmodic element of the croup, and then just getting better," Dr. Dennis Scolnik, an emergency room pediatrician at The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, Canada, said in a prepared statement.

"I think humidity probably wouldn't harm. But I think it's a false sense of security," he added.

There are medical treatments for serious cases of croup, he added.

More information

The Nemours Foundation has more about croup.

SOURCE: Health Behavior News Service, news release, July 18, 2006
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