Croup is a common 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 as they may need treatment.
Check if your child has croup
Symptoms of croup include:
- a barking cough – this may sound like a seal (you can search online to hear examples)
- a hoarse voice
- difficulty breathing
- a high pitched, 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-like symptoms, wheezing, rapid breathing, not feeding
Cold-like symptoms with bouts of coughing – your child may "whoop" when breathing in
Urgent advice: Ask for an urgent GP appointment or call NHS 111 if:
- you think your child may have croup – the doctor may give your child medicine to shorten the illness
- your child is getting worse or not getting better after seeing a GP
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. There are things you can do to help.
sit your child upright and try not to let them lie down
comfort them if they're distressed and try to keep them calm (crying can make the symptoms worse)
give them plenty of fluids
check on them regularly, including at night
do not put your child in a steamy room or get them to inhale steam
Immediate action required: Call 999 or go to A&E if your child:
- is struggling to breathe (you may notice grunting noises, see their tummy sucking under their ribcage, or their breathing may sound different)
- has blue, grey, pale or blotchy skin, lips or tongue – on brown or black skin, this may be easier to see on the palms of the hands or soles of the feet
- is sleepier than normal or difficult to wake
- is unusually quiet and still
- is limp, floppy or not responding like they normally do (their head may fall to the side, backwards or forwards, or they may find it difficult to lift their head or focus on your face)
- is very upset or restless, is having difficulty breathing and can't be calmed down
- is unwell and drooling more than they normally do, finding it hard to swallow, or wants to sit rather than lie down
Page last reviewed: 2 August 2023
Next review due: 2 August 2026