Croup is very common in young children, mainly in children under 5 years old. It’s usually not serious. The inflammation is usually caused by the same viruses that cause the common cold, and is therefore more common in winter.
What is croup?
Croup is a viral infection that causes swelling of the windpipe (trachea), the airways to the lungs (the bronchi) and the vocal cords (voice box). This swelling makes the airway narrower, so it is harder to breathe.
A child with croup has a distinctive barking cough and may make a harsh sound, known as stridor, when they breathe in.
Croup can usually be diagnosed by a doctor and treated at home. Your doctor will diagnose croup after taking your child’s history and examining your child.
When to see your doctor
You should take your child to the doctor if:
- your child is having trouble breathing
- you can easily hear your child’s noisy breathing, even when they are resting quietly
- your child’s breastbone sucks in when they breathe in
- your child has trouble swallowing
- you’re worried.
If your child’s lips go blue, seek medical attention immediately. Severe croup requires emergency medical attention.
If you suspect that you are having a life-threatening medical emergency, dial triple zero (000) immediately.
Last reviewed: July 2017