Croup is a condition that affects babies’ and young children’s airways. It’s usually mild, but call NHS 111 or see a GP if you’re worried.

Check if your child has croup

These are the symptoms of croup:

  • a barking cough that sounds like a seal (you can hear examples online)
  • 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

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 

How to treat croup at home

Croup usually gets better on its own within 48 hours.

Until it does:


  • 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

Call NHS 111 or see a GP if:

  • you’re worried
  • your child is getting worse
  • they’re no better after 48 hours

Go to A&E or 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 blue or grey
  • they’re unusually quiet and still
  • they suddenly get a very high temperature or become very ill