Croup is caused usually by a virus infection. A young child (usually under 5 years) becomes mildly unwell with what seems to be a normal 'cold'. The virus infection then causes the lining of the airway (windpipe) in the child's neck to swell, causing the airway to get narrower and making it harder to breathe.
The usual way that croup happens is:
- The child will usually have been unwell for a couple of days (runny nose, cough, slightly high temperature).
- Then he will wake during the night with a harsh, barking, croupy cough, and noisy breathing (stridor) and a hoarse voice.
- This can last a couple of hours, then settle down so he can sleep peacefully. Often it will come back again during the next couple of nights.
- During the day the child is usually well apart from the cold.
- Some older children (aged between 3 and 8 years) may have occasional croup when they don't have a cold. They need to be looked after in the same way.
If the croup does not settle with comforting, or the child becomes more distressed or unwell, or you are concerned about your child, the child needs to be seen by a doctor.
To read more about croup and what you can do to help your child
Royal Children's Hospital, Victoria
Raising Children Network
The information on this site should not be used as an alternative to professional care. If you have a particular problem, see a doctor, or ring the Parent Helpline on 1300 364 100 (local call cost from anywhere in South Australia).
This topic may use 'he' and 'she' in turn - please change to suit your child's sex.