Croup

Croup usually affects children between 6 months and 6 years of age, most often during their second year. It’s caused by a virus so antibiotics won’t help. Typically it causes a ‘seal-like’ barking cough. It's usually mild, but you should see your GP if your child appears unwell.

Check if your child has croup

These are the symptoms of croup:

  • a barking cough that sounds like a seal (you can hear examples online)
  • a hoarse voice
  • problems with breathing
  • a rasping sound when breathing in

Your child will usually have cold-like symptoms to begin with, such as a temperature, runny nose and cough.

Croup symptoms usually come on after a few days and are often worse at night.

If you’re not sure it’s croup

There are other conditions that have similar symptoms to croup, these include:

  • runny nose, sneezing, cough and temperature: possible cause - cold
  • cold-like symptoms, wheezing, rapid breathing, not feeding: possible cause - bronchiolitis
  • cold-like symptoms with bouts of coughing – your child may "whoop" when breathing in: possible cause - whooping cough

How to treat croup at home

Croup usually gets better on its own within 48 hours.

Until it does:

Do

  • stay calm
  • sit your child upright
  • comfort them if they're distressed (crying can make the symptoms worse)
  • give them plenty of fluids

Don't

  • put your child in a steamy room or get them to inhale steam
  • give them cough or cold medicines

When to see your GP

You should see your GP or contact GP out of hours service if:

  • you're worried that you child appears unwell
  • your child is getting worse

When to get urgent medical help

You should go to your nearest emergency department or call 999 if:

  • your child is struggling to breathe (you may see their tummy sucking inwards, the skin over their ribs sucking inwards, or their breathing sounds different)
  • their skin or lips start to look blue or grey
  • they're unusually quiet and still

The information on this page has been adapted from original content from the NHS website.

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