Complications of croup 

Complications that develop as a result of croup are rare.

Airway obstruction

If an obstructed airway is not treated promptly, it can lead to:

  • severe breathing difficulty (respiratory distress)
  • respiratory arrest (where breathing stops but the heart continues beating)

Always call 999 for an ambulance if your child is struggling to breathe.

Your child may find it difficult to drink fluids as a result of an obstruction in their airway. However, it is important they have plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration.

If your child refuses fluids, try not to force them. This could distress your child and make the condition worse.

Secondary infection

A secondary infection can sometimes develop following the initial viral infection that caused croup. A secondary infection can potentially cause:

  • pneumonia, a chest infection which causes swelling of the tissue in one or both lungs
  • bacterial tracheitis, which is a serious and potentially life-threatening infection that can occur after a viral respiratory infection

Other complications

Although rare, other possible complications of croup can include middle ear infection and lymphadenitis, an infection of the glands of the immune system (lymph nodes).


Page last reviewed: 28/08/2014

Next review due: 28/08/2016