Patient Experience

  • Reference Number: HEY-890/2020
  • Departments: Emergency Department, Paediatrics
  • Last Updated: 13 March 2020


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

General Advice and Consent

Most of your questions should have been answered by this leaflet, but remember that this is only a starting point for discussion with the healthcare team.

Consent to treatment

Before any doctor, nurse or therapist examines or treats your child, they must seek your consent or permission. In order to make a decision, you need to have information from health professionals about the treatment or investigation which is being offered to your child. You should always ask them more questions if you do not understand or if you want more information.

The information you receive should be about your child’s condition, the alternatives available for your child, and whether it carries risks as well as the benefits. What is important is that your consent is genuine or valid. That means:

  • you must be able to give your consent
  • you must be given enough information to enable you to make a decision
  • you must be acting under your own free will and not under the strong influence of another person

Information about your child

We collect and use your child’s information to provide your child with care and treatment. As part of your child’s care, information about your child will be shared between members of a healthcare team, some of whom you may not meet. Your child’s information may also be used to help train staff, to check the quality of our care, to manage and plan the health service, and to help with research. Wherever possible we use anonymous data.

We may pass on relevant information to other health organisations that provide your child with care. All information is treated as strictly confidential and is not given to anyone who does not need it. If you have any concerns please ask your child’s doctor, or the person caring for your child.

Under the General Data Protection Regulation and the Data Protection Act 2018 we are responsible for maintaining the confidentiality of any information we hold about your child. For further information visit the following page: Confidential Information about You.

If you need information about your child’s (or a child you care for) health and wellbeing and their care and treatment in a different format, such as large print, braille or audio, due to disability, impairment or sensory loss, please advise a member of staff and this can be arranged.