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Croup in babies and children

Croup is an inflammation of the airways. It's common in children under 3 years old. Croup is caused by a viral infection of the voice box (larynx) and windpipe (trachea).


Symptoms of croup can include:

  • cough - this is usually harsh and may sound like barking
  • loud or rasping breathing
  • hoarseness - your child's voice may be low and rough
  • fever
  • aches and pains
  • runny nose
  • runny eyes


Always take your child to the GP if you think they have croup. The symptoms of croup are usually mild, but they can change and become worse quickly. Occasionally children with croup need to be treated in the hospital.

Immediately go to the hospital or call 999 if your child:

  • is struggling to breathe
  • has grey or blue skin or lips
  • is unusually quiet and still

Children with croup usually get better on their own after 2 days. Until then, you can help your child at home by:

  • staying calm - if your child becomes stressed it may be harder for them to breathe
  • reassuring and comforting them
  • keeping them upright and not letting them lie down when possible
  • giving them plenty of fluids, such as water or their regular milk feeds

Do not:

  • give your child any cough medicines, herbal remedies or any medications that have not been prescribed by a doctor
  • put your child in a hot room
  • let your child inhale steam

page last reviewed: 14/11/2018
next review due: 14/11/2021