Croup is a viral infection which causes swelling of the voice box (larynx) and windpipe (trachea). This swelling makes the airway narrower, so it is harder to breathe.

Croup often begins like a normal cold followed by a harsh, barking cough. This may
be worse at night when the air is cooler.

It usually affects children up to five years old and some children get croup several times.

Croup can get worse quickly if your child is having problems breathing they should be seen by a doctor as soon as possible.

Signs & Symptoms

  • Croup often begins like a normal cold e.g. runny nose and cough

  • Then your child will get a harsh, barking cough

  • Your child's voice may be hoarse

  • They may have a squeaky noise when breathing in, called 'stridor'

  • The symptoms are often worse at night and reach their worst on the second
    or third night

  • Croup may last for three to four days

Medical Treatment

If your child's croup attack is severe they will need to stay in hospital. Severe croup is when your child:

  • Has noisy breathing (stridor) when resting

  • Muscles around the ribs suck in when breathing

  • Is very distressed

Most children do not need any other specific treatment once they are being closely watched in hospital.

Sometimes steroids taken by mouth are given for croup. The steroids help reduce
the swelling in the airway and makes breathing easier.

Note: Antibiotics do not work on viruses and are not given for croup.

Croup Managment at Home

A mild attack of croup is when your child has the barking cough but does not have
noisy breathing (stridor) at rest or is not struggling to breathe. Mild croup can usually
be managed at home with the following top tips:

Top Tips

Try and calm your child as breathing is often more difficult when your child is upset.

Try keeping your child calm by sitting quietly, reading a book or watching a video.

If your child has a fever and is irritable you may give paracetamol.

Croup often becomes worse at night, so your child may be more settled if someone stays with them.

Using a steam vaporiser may help relieve the symptoms of croup. Warm, moist air is beneficial and doctors normally recommend keeping the child in a steamy room – vaporisers provide a more convenient method of keeping the child's room at the right humidity.