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HealthInfo Waitaha Canterbury



Phone 111 for an ambulance if a child with croup:

  • becomes blue
  • becomes pale or blue after a coughing spell
  • has difficulty breathing
  • has a change in their behaviour (for example, becomes drowsy, agitated or delirious)
  • has pauses in their breathing.

Croup is a common viral infection that narrows the upper airways. It's more common in pēpi (babies) over 6 months old and young tamariki (children) under 3, though older tamariki can also get it.

Symptoms of croup

CroupCroup symptoms can last for several days, but they're usually worse at around three to five days. The symptoms are usually worse at night or when there is a sudden cold change in temperature.

Typical symptoms include:

Your tamaiti (child) may have other signs of a viral illness such as a sore throat, a fever a runny nose and red eyes.

Helping a child with croup

Having croup can be scary. Help your tamaiti child stay calm. Reassure and comfort them as crying can make their symptoms worse.

Sit them upright – this makes it easier for them to breathe.

Getting help for your child with croup

Croup is not usually serious, and you can usually safely treat it at home. But croup can become serious quickly. Take your tamaiti to a doctor straight away if:

Treating croup

As croup is caused by a virus, antibiotics do not help. In moderate to severe croup, steroids are sometimes prescribed to help reduce any swelling in your child’s airways.

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Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed November 2021.


Page reference: 47572

Review key: HICRP-34398