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:
- stay calm
- sit your child upright
- comfort them if they're distressed (crying can make the symptoms worse)
- give them plenty of fluids
- 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'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
More useful links
The information on this page has been adapted from original content from the NHS website.
For further information see terms and conditions.