Children may have symptoms of a cold before the onset of croup, including a runny nose, sore throat, fever and irritability. They then develop a harsh, barking cough, sometimes a hoarse voice, and then noisy breathing (stridor).
The noisy breathing and cough are usually worse at night. They can also get worse if your child gets upset. In most children, the symptoms improve over a few days then disappear.
Croup is often only a mild illness, but it can become serious quickly.
Get medical help immediately if you notice any of the following:
- your child has difficulty breathing
- your child has noisy breathing when at rest
- the effort of breathing is tiring your child
- your child has a high temperature and starts dribbling
- your child cannot swallow
- your child becomes pale or blue (which usually happens after a coughing spell)
- your child becomes floppy
- you notice your child’s breastbone being sucked right back
- your child becomes restless, distressed, irritable and/or delirious
- you are worried or concerned for any reason.
You should call an ambulance (call 000) immediately if:
- your child looks very sick and becomes pale and drowsy.
- your child's lips are blue in colour.
Children with croup may have noisy, squeaky breathing that is worse when breathing in. This is called stridor. It generally indicates some obstruction or narrowing of the windpipe. Stridor is also occasionally caused by a condition called epiglottitis. It might also be caused by an inhaled foreign body.
Last reviewed: July 2017