Old-fashioned Croup Cure

17-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Sunday, November 3, 1912:  Saw some snowflakes yesterday. Had croup this evening so you see that put my studies back somewhat.

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

Croup is no fun. It’s awful to have a bad cough that sounds like a seal!

The old- fashioned way to treat croup was to bring some water to a boil on the stove. The ill person would then very, very carefully lean over boiling water and breathe deeply for several minutes. The steam would calm the coughing.

I can picture Grandma leaning over a pot of boiling water on a wood or coal stove trying to sooth her cough—while thinking about the homework that needed to be done.

20 Responses

  1. My neighbours son used to suffer with Croup when he was little. They’d set up their domed tent in the livingroom and run the vaporizer inside and sleep with him in there, it really helped. Good for little ones you don’t want near a hot stove.

  2. I usually get out the vaporizer. I really should buy a new one that is easier to use. I have an old one that is clunky and only get it out if it is absolutely required.

  3. I know they used to make mustard plasters for chest colds. My mother made them when I was little out of ground mustard and other stuff that I don’t remember which she would spread on a piece of white cotton cloth and lay it on the chest. We also would have to breath steam also with vicks in it.

    • I never had a mustard plaster–but I remember my mother putting Ben-gay or Vick’s on my chest when I was congested and then tying a flannel rag around my neck to cover the salve.

  4. My son had a croupy cough a couple of weeks ago. I run the shower to get the bathroom really steamy and make him sit in there for a while, then I crack the window to let the cool air in while he sleeps. It seems to help.

    Interestingly, I was just reading a book that mentioned how serious the croup could be back in the day. I think one of the children I read about died. My guess is the croup started out viral and progressed to something bacterial. Thank goodness for today’s antibiotics…

    I hope Helen wasn’t sick long! Get well, Grandma!

  5. When my children were small, I too used the steam from the shower for my little ones. I still use it for myself along with the Vicks when I have a bad cold or cough. My mother would make lemon tea and have us drink it warm, and when lemons were not available she would make tea from fresh pine leaves. She would rub us down with solid fat saved from cooked beef, ugh.

  6. I had croup-like cough a year ago and did this Vicks, just like mother used to do.

  7. , I find breathing in steam like Helena probably did the best, Although if bad enough I do bring out the Vicks. And I am happy to report 100 yrs later in 2012 no snow flurries!! ;)

  8. The best treatment for Croup is cool moist air, not steam. Croup is swelling/inflammation of tissue within the upper throat area. Steam will actually tend to increase the inflammation whereas cool moist air will reduce it in a matter of minutes. All Pedi’s will recomend cool moist air as their primary treatment for children suffering from Croup.

    Go outside and breathe the cool air or open a freezer doe for a few minutes. Treat it like a sprained ankle… to reduce you use ice, not hot or steam. Inflammation is inflammation… cool moist air it the answer.

    Love to all Mums out there :-)

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