Secretary: Suzanne Harvey
Royal Brompton Hospital,
77 Wimpole Street,
London, W1G 9RU

Respiratory Conditions

How to Recognise Croup


Croup is a very common viral infection in children that can affect the windpipe, the two airways that lead into the lungs, and the voice box. Croup is usually caused by a virus known as parainfluenza, although there are several other viruses that can cause the same kind of infection. You can recognise their effects by the following characteristics.

  1. Most Likely to Happen in Autumn/Winter: Most cases of croup happen in late autumn or in early winter, so this is when the symptoms of viral infection in children are most likely to be linked to croup. However, don’t be surprised if your child has croup at another time of the year as the infection can spread at any time.

  3. Usually Affects the Under-3s:Children are most likely to have croup between the ages of six months and three years, with most cases happening in one year olds. However, croup can happen at any age and it is even possible for an adult to be affected, although this is rare.

  5. Barking Cough and Stridor:The symptoms of croup can be very distinctive. The most obvious sign is a bark-like cough. You may also notice that your child has a hoarse, croaky voice and that his or her breathing is affected. You may hear a grating sound as your child breathes in, particularly after a bout of coughing or crying. These symptoms will often get worse at night.

  7. Often Follows a Cold:The croup symptoms often appear after your child has had cold-like symptoms for a while. You might have spent the last few days dealing with a sore throat, runny nose, or a fever, before the bark-like cough began.

  9. Usually Over in 48 Hours: Most children will recover from croup within two days, although the infection can go on for up to two weeks. As long as the symptoms are mild and they don't go on beyond this, it is possible to treat croup at home. However, you should always seek help if a viral infection in children causes a high fever, a severe cough, or difficulty breathing.

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Suzanne Harvey



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