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Humid Air is Little Help for Croup's Barking Cough

For decades, parents and pediatricians have relied on humid air to relieve the barking cough and noisy breathing of croup, a common childhood condition that sometimes// sends worried families to the emergency room. Now a new review of evidence suggests that the long relied-on remedy has little medical benefit.

“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,” said lead reviewer Michael Moore, a family doctor at Three Swans Surgery in Salisbury, England. “That’s the kind of first-aid advice that is often given at the point of first contact with a health care professional.”

Moore’s team searched the medical literature looking for evidence that that well-worn suggestion actually works. None of the trials evaluated humid air treatments given at home. But the review brings together data from three studies on 135 children with croup who were treated in the emergency room.

“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. But he added that it’s possible that some benefit exists that the measures do not pick up, so the researchers recommend more research in community settings.

The review appears in the current issue of The Cochrane Library, a publication of The Cochrane Collaboration, an international organization that evaluates research in all aspects of health care. Systematic reviews draw evidence-based conclusions about medical practice after considering both the content and quality of existing trials on a topic.

Croup is a set of symptoms that causes swelling in the upper part of the airway and affects the voice box. The condition usually is caused by a viral infection. Young children are especially susceptible to croup because the infants and toddlers have narrower airwa
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