Croup in children

Croup is a childhood condition that makes it difficult to breathe. Croup is caused by the inflammation of the windpipe (trachea) and the voice box (larynx).

Children with croup have difficulty breathing, a distinctive barking cough and may have a croaky voice.

Croup can usually be diagnosed by a GP and treated at home. If an attack of croup is severe and doesn’t go away, call 999 or 112 for emergency help.

There is a small risk that they may have a rare but similar condition called epiglottitis. The epiglottis is a small flap of tissue at the base of the tongue which keeps food from going down the windpipe when swallowing. If this gets infected and swollen it can block the airway.

If you think a child might have epiglottitis, it’s a medical emergency and you need to call 999 or 112 immediately.

Watch our video - What to do if your baby has croup

What to look for - croup

If you think a child may have croup, these are the four key things to look for:

  1. 1. Distressed breathing
  2. 2. A short barking cough
  3. 3. Rasping noise and croaky voice
  4. 4. Blue-grey skin

What you need to do - croup

• Stay calm and don’t panic, as this will alarm them and probably make the attack of croup worse.

• Sit them on your knee, supporting their back, and reassure them calmly.

• If the croup is severe, call 999 or 112 for emergency medical help.

• If they have a high temperature too, then suspect epiglottitis and call 999 or 112 immediately.

• When you’re waiting for help to arrive, keep checking the child's breathing, pulse and level of response.

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