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HealthInfo Canterbury



Phone 111 for an ambulance if a child with croup:

  • has noisy breathing with both in and out breaths
  • has difficulty speaking
  • is struggling to breathe
  • is turning blue or grey
  • is very distressed.

Croup is an viral infection of the upper airway that makes the voice box (larynx) swell, blocking the windpipe. It's more common in babies and young children under 3.

Croup isn't usually serious, and you can usually safely treat it at home. But if your child is having difficulty breathing, not getting better, getting worse or you're worried. take them to a doctor straight away.

Recognising croup

CroupCroup symptoms can come and go over a few days. But they're usually worse at night or when there's a sudden cold change in temperature. Croup symptoms can last for three to five days. They include cold-like symptoms such as a high temperature, runny nose and cough. They can also include:

Helping a child who has croup

Make sure you stay calm and reassure and comfort your child. Having croup can be scary, but agitation or crying makes it worse.

Steroids are used in severe croup to help prevent any breathing problems. They're anti-inflammatories that can help reduce any swelling in your child's airways. If your child has had a bad night with croup, or is still having problems during the day, talk to your GP about whether steroids would help.

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Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed November 2019.


Page reference: 47572

Review key: HICRP-34398