A Wedding, A Croup Attack, and A Lesson Learned

Parents comforting childWritten by Donna McClintock, COO with Children’s Choice Learning Centers, Inc.

This weekend, our family met in Mississippi to attend the wedding of my beautiful niece. It was a fantastic weekend of laughter and joy, and I also learned something new that I want to share.

After the amazing wedding and hours of joy with our family, we all went to bed very late Friday night. At 2:40 a.m., my daughter and her husband ran into our bedroom with 3-year-old Ella in arms. Ella couldn’t catch her breath, and she sounded like a seal gasping for air as she tried to breathe. I knew it was an emergency, and we called 911. When the paramedics arrived, they knew right away that she was suffering a sudden onset of croup. They said she was in distress and transported her to the hospital where she spent several hours getting treatment.

It was later called a ‘croup attack’ which usually strikes in the middle of the night and affects children up to about age six. Once a child has an attack, it is likely that it will occur again. I had heard of the croup; but Ella had no fever, did not have a cold, and went to bed perfectly healthy. I had no idea that she could have an attack like that.

I have three grown children and three grandchildren, been in the field of early care and education for over 30 years, and yet I had never heard of a croup attack. I share this to make a significant point: No one knows it all. No matter how many children you have or what you have endured, life will find a way to present you with a new obstacle to overcome. I am sure that many of you know all about the croup and would have known exactly what to do had you been there with us that night. However, I had never come across nor read about a sudden croup attack.

I had no advice to offer that night except to say, “Call 911.” It’s okay to not have all the answers, and I am fine with admitting that. Don’t beat yourself up when you encounter a situation where you don’t know what to do, even if you find out that the solution is common knowledge to others. You can’t possibly know everything. Just be the best parent you can be and realize there will be MANY times that you will face things that you do not know how to handle. We ALL have blind spots … so when you don’t know what to do, ask for help.

Parenting is a journey, and it is first and foremost about building a strong relationship. My daughter nor her husband were going to give up until their baby got help. They were scared and didn’t know what to do; but Ella heard soothing, calming, whispered words of comfort the entire time. The relationship always comes first. You can find people with the knowledge to help you, but your child has only one mother, one father. Be the parent that she needs even when you are scared, searching for answers, or in pain. When you are not sure what to do on ANY matter regarding your child, seek help and focus on building and maintaining a strong relationship with her while you wait for direction.

I am so happy to report that Ella is just fine. She was treated and released a few hours later. I am also happy to report that I now know all about a croup attack. I also learned that it’s okay for even a ‘parenting expert’ to not have all the answers.

In case you are not familiar, listed below are informational websites regarding croup and croup attack:


Croup refers to an infection of the upper airway, generally in children, which obstructs breathing and causes a characteristic barking cough.

The cough and other symptoms of croup are the result of inflammation around the vocal cords (larynx), windpipe (trachea), and bronchial tubes (bronchi). When a cough forces air through this narrowed passage, the swollen vocal cords produce a noise similar to a seal barking.


Symptoms of croup often improve during the day and get worse at night. Sometimes children have croup attacks that wake them up in the middle of the night for a couple of nights in a row, but the illness usually improves gradually in 2 to 5 days.



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