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Croup is a common childhood condition that mainly affects babies' and young children's airways.

It's usually mild, but it's important to call NHS 111 if you suspect your child has croup. They may need treatment.

Important: Stay at home

Stay at home if your child has a cough, as it could be coronavirus. To find out what to do:

Check if your child has croup

These are the symptoms of croup:

  • a barking cough that sounds like a seal (you can search online to hear examples)
  • a hoarse voice
  • difficulty breathing
  • a rasping sound when breathing in

Your child will usually have cold-like symptoms to begin with, such as a temperature, runny nose and cough.

Croup symptoms usually come on after a few days and are often worse at night.

If you're not sure it's croup
Possible causes of cough and cold-like symptoms in children
Symptoms Possible cause
Runny nose, sneezing, cough and temperature Cold
Cold-like symptoms, wheezing, rapid breathing, not feeding Bronchiolitis
Cold-like symptoms with bouts of coughing – your child may "whoop" when breathing in Whooping cough

Non-urgent advice: Call NHS 111 or see a GP if :

  • you think your child may have croup – the doctor may give your child medicine to shorten the illness
  • you're worried
  • your child is getting worse
  • they're no better after 48 hours

Occasionally, your child may be referred to hospital if they're more seriously ill or they're under the age of 3 months.


Coronavirus update: how to contact a GP

It's still important to get help from a GP if you need it. To contact your GP surgery:

  • visit their website
  • use the NHS App
  • call them

Find out about using the NHS during coronavirus

How to look after a child with croup at home

Croup usually gets better on its own within 48 hours.

During this time:


  • stay calm

  • sit your child upright

  • comfort them if they're distressed (crying can make the symptoms worse)

  • give them plenty of fluids


  • do not put your child in a steamy room or get them to inhale steam

  • do not give them cough or cold medicines

Immediate action required: Call 999 if:

  • your child is struggling to breathe (you may see their tummy sucking inwards or their breathing sounds different)
  • their skin or lips start to look very pale or blue
  • they're unusually quiet and still
  • they suddenly get a very high temperature or become very ill

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Page last reviewed: 18 September 2020
Next review due: 18 September 2023