Croup Advice Sheet

  • Reference Number: HEY-890/2017
  • Departments: Emergency Department, Paediatrics


This leaflet has been produced to give you general information about your child’s condition.  Most of your questions should be answered by this leaflet.  It is not intended to replace the discussion between you and your child’s doctor, but may act as a starting point for discussion.  If after reading it you have any concerns or require further explanation, please discuss this with a member of the healthcare team caring for your child.

What is croup?

Croup is a common problem in children, usually caused by a viral infection in the upper airways.  A child with croup will have a barking cough and might make a rasping noise called stridor when they breathe in.  They may also have a temperature, hoarse voice and laboured breathing.  Around 3% of children get croup each year, usually in autumn or winter.  Children aged 6 months to 3 years old are most likely to get croup, but older children can also be affected. Croup usually lasts 5 or 6 days, but the first night is often the worst.

How is croup treated?

As croup is caused by a viral infection, antibiotics do not work.  The majority of croup cases are mild and can be managed at home.  Sometimes a dose of steroid medication is given to reduce swelling in the airways.  Occasionally a child will need oxygen and nebulisers (inhaled steroids or adrenaline) if the croup is particularly bad.  Medications such as paracetamol and ibuprofen are used to treat the temperature and sore throat.

What can I do to help my child at home?

  • Give children’s paracetamol or ibuprofen to help with the sore throat and temperature.
  • Sit your child upright and comfort them if they are distressed.  Crying can make the symptoms worse.
  • Encourage your child to drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration.
  • DO NOT put any objects in your child’s mouth. This can trigger a spasm in the airway.

Call 999 if:

  • Home remedies are not helping and the croup symptoms are getting worse.
  • Your child cannot talk.
  • Your child is breathing faster than normal, is having difficulty breathing.
  • Your child is turning blue.
  • Your child is dribbling and cannot swallow.
  • Your child collapses.

How can I prevent croup?

Croup itself cannot be prevented – it is spread like colds and flu.  Washing your hands and cleaning surfaces can help.

Routine childhood vaccinations can help protect against some of the infections which can lead to croup.

Should you require further advice please contact NHS 111

This leaflet was produced by the Emergency Department, Hull & East Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust and will be reviewed in April 2020.