Croup is a common childhood condition that mainly affects babies' and young children's airways. It's usually mild, but it's important to call NHS 111 if you think your child has croup. They may need treatment.
Important: Could it be coronavirus (COVID-19)?
A new, continuous cough could be COVID-19.
Check if your child has croup
These are the symptoms of croup:
- a barking cough that sounds like a seal (you can search online to hear examples)
- a hoarse voice
- difficulty 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
|Runny nose, sneezing, cough and temperature||Cold|
|Cold-like symptoms, wheezing, rapid breathing, not feeding||Bronchiolitis|
|Cold-like symptoms with bouts of coughing – your child may "whoop" when breathing in||Whooping cough|
Non-urgent advice: Call NHS 111 or see a GP if :
- you think your child may have croup – the doctor may give your child medicine to shorten the illness
- you're worried
- your child is getting worse
- they're no better after 48 hours
Occasionally, your child may be referred to hospital if they're more seriously ill or they're under the age of 3 months.
How to look after a child with croup at home
Croup usually gets better on its own within 48 hours.
During this time:
sit your child upright
comfort them if they're distressed (crying can make the symptoms worse)
give them plenty of fluids
do not put your child in a steamy room or get them to inhale steam
do not give them cough or cold medicines
Immediate action required: Call 999 if:
- your child is struggling to breathe (you may see their tummy sucking inwards or their breathing sounds different)
- their skin or lips start to look very pale or blue
- they're unusually quiet and still
- they suddenly get a very high temperature or become very ill
Page last reviewed: 18 September 2020
Next review due: 18 September 2023