Ask the Doctor: croup, stomach growls and yeast infections

Dr. Rob Riley joins us from the South Bend Clinic each week to answer your medical questions. Here are the responses from November 20.

Carol: My 7 year old has croup. How long should I expect it to last?

Croup is a common illness in young children. It’s caused by a variety of viruses and it affects the big airway into the lungs called the trachea. It usually starts out like any cold but then the child develops this characteristic cough that sounds like a seal barking. Usually the symptoms are not severe and that barking cough fades away after about three days. But sometimes, particularly in younger children, the swelling in the airway can make it hard to breathe and those kids need to see a doctor. We can often keep things from getting worse with a dose of a steroid that reduces that airway inflammation. And uncommonly, we need to admit a child to the hospital for a short stay so we can make sure their airway stays open. In the end, the child’s immune system kicks in and fights off the infection.

Mary: What causes the audible “growl” when we’re hungry?

The stomach and intestines are hollow tubes lined with smooth muscles that contract in a coordinated way to move food through the system. When the stomach and upper intestines are empty for a couple of hours, they begin contracting at an increased rate in anticipation that food will be arriving soon, and these contractions make that rumbling sound. Since doctors have to have fancy names for everything, we call this borborygmi—one of the great words in medicine. In any case, this rumbling is normal and having a meal will cause it to subside for a while.

Anonymous: What are yeast infections? Can babies get them?

Yeast is a form of a fungus and it can cause infections in humans. The most common yeast infection we see is a vaginal yeast infection in women, but babies absolutely do get yeast infections. The most common one we see in babies goes along with a bad diaper rash. Not all diaper rashes have yeast but it commonly comes along for the ride and makes the diaper rash worse. Fortunately, we can treat this pretty easily by applying certain anti-fungal creams. Babies can also get yeast infections of their mouths and we call that thrush. It’s also usually pretty easy to treat with anti-fungal medicines we squirt into both sides of their mouths and let them sort of slobber it around for a while. That usually takes care of the problem.