It was a windy morning. Ricky and I were cuddled up together on the couch and under a blanket. He was recovering from a bout of croup. That bark-like cough always stops me in my tracks. I can hear the hint of it hours before it develops.

I’m sure Julie thought I was alarmist that first time I was talking about hearing it in Ricky’s cough. She quickly learned, as parents do, that action was necessary. David and Julie were in the living room with Ricky. Tim was there, too. We got the kettle boiling in the kitchen, opened up the top and held the little boy nearby. Julie gave Ricky some Calpol and, after a while, he settled enough to go back to sleep.

He had another episode of it last year and Julie took him to see his GP afterwards. He prescribed an inhaler with a spacer gadget to help Ricky breathe in the medicine to open up his airways. That has worked well for him during colds (which have occurred often this year). During the COVID-19 pandemic, babies and toddlers had fewer viruses due to reduced exposure. Now that these children are circulating again, they are picking up everything.

Croup returns

Last week, Ricky was at home from playschool with a head cold. As I did my jobs around the house, I could hear the little boy’s incessant cough.

By evening time, the cough sound had changed to the barking sound. Julie gave Ricky some Calpol and he used the puffer a number of times at the appropriate intervals. He didn’t respond to her interventions. His temperature was also up. I continued to get anxious about the little boy. It’s a delicate balance to know when to say something that will be helpful rather than for it to be construed as interference. I try to be careful with my words, because once they are out of my mouth, I can’t draw them back. Tim came in from the yard and on hearing Ricky, I could see that he was anxious, too. I decided that I couldn’t face the night with Ricky in that state. I was sure we’d be headed to A&E after a few hours. So I blurted out, “Julie, I think we should take Ricky to South Doc.” She agreed, admitting that she was having the same thoughts. It was a relief that we were on the same page. Julie rang South Doc.


The nurse advised her to give Ricky paediatric Nurofen to bring down his temperature. I scolded myself for not thinking of that. About 15 minutes later, the doctor rang Julie. He could hear Ricky coughing in the background. He confirmed croup but needed to see him in order to prescribe the necessary steroids. Off we went to Kinsale Road, South Doc. There were a few before us. Still, our wait time was no more than 20 minutes. Dr Mike called us in. Ricky walked in independently. He stood in the middle of the floor, not needing Mammy or Granny for support. He asked the doctor if he knew Dr Paul, Ricky’s GP. He did, and that was enough for Ricky to trust him. I collected the steroids from the late night pharmacy; four little pink tablets to be taken 24 hours apart.

Granny’s life lesson

Once home, I mashed the tablets in a bit of Calpol and we endeavoured to administer them to Ricky. It was a battle, necessitating the intervention of Tim holding him with Julie controlling his legs while I tried to get the liquid into his mouth. It was not pretty.

Within two hours, the cough had lessened considerably. I couldn’t bear the thought of a repeat performance the next day. Remembering my own lads, I got out the jelly babies and cut them up. I focused on one pink jelly, as the tablets were also pink.

I chatted to Ricky, telling him that he was learning to take tablets like a grown up.

“But I want to chew them,” he said. After a few attempts, he was able to put the “tablet” on his tongue and follow quickly with a gulp of water. He has a juice drink for in-between the tablets. But for a few tears initially, the next medication time went without incident. Another of Granny’s life lessons in the bag.

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