Croup is caused by a viral infection in children 6 months to 5 years, sometimes older. Indications include cold symptoms, hoarse voice, harsh barking cough, high-pitched sound on inhale (stridor), skin between the ribs or under the neck pulling on inhale in extreme cases.

1. Keep patient calm and reassured to ease breathing

2. If fever is present, isolate patient and seek medical advice.

3. Remain with patient until breathing normally

4. Call Triple Zero (000) for an ambulance if patient is:

  • struggling to breathe
  • pale and drowsy
  • drooling or can't swallow
  • blue in the lips

Frequently Asked Questions 

Is croup infectious? While croup is not infectious, the virus that causes it can easily spread to other children through exposure to coughing and sneezing. The patient should be kept at home whilst unwell, and proper hand hygiene (washing and sanitising) should be observed by patient and carers.

How is croup treated? No medical treatment is necessary for mild croup, or the virus that causes it. It's important to keep the patient calm, as distress makes symptoms worse. Fever can be treated with paracetamol or ibuprofen. If mild croup lasts more than 4 days, the patient should be seen by a medical professional, who may prescribe steroids and possibly monitoring in hospital. 

When is croup considered "severe"? In addition to the (above) reasons for calling an ambulance, see a doctor if:

  • the patient is under 6 months old
  • their breastbone or skin between the ribs sucks in on inhalation
  • the patient has stridor (high pitched squeaking on inhalation) when resting
  • the patient is very distressed or symptoms are worsening

Should I put the patient in a steam-filled room? There is no evidence to suggest that steamers, humidifiers or time spent in a steamy bathroom helps relieve croup.