Croup is the body’s reaction to a virus, not the virus itself. However, the virus that causes croup can be easily spread from person to person by coughing and sneezing. If your child has croup you should keep them away from school and child care while they are unwell. Regularly and thoroughly washing your hands can prevent the spread of the virus.
Signs and symptoms of croup
- Croup usually begins like a normal cold, e.g., runny nose and cough, maybe a slight fever.
- The cough will change to become harsh and barking and may sound like a seal.
- The child’s voice may become hoarse.
- When the child breathes in there may be a squeaky high-pitched noise which is called stridor.
- In severe cases of croup, the skin between the child’s ribs or under the neck may suck in when they breathe, and the may struggle to breathe.
Croup often begins without warning in the middle of the night. The symptoms are often worse at night and may persist for three or days. The stridor breathing should not persist.
You should see a doctor if:
- Your child is under 6 months old and has symptoms of croup.
- Your child’s skin between their ribs sucks in when they breathe in.
- Your child has stridor breathing when at rest.
- Your child is very distressed, and/or the symptoms are worsening.
- If you are worried for any reason.
Treatments by a doctor:
- Steroids (e.g. prednisolone or dexamethasone) taken by mouth in syrup form are often prescribed. The steroids help reduce the swelling in the airway which will make breathing easier.
- Severe croup will need hospitalisation and be closely monitored
- Antibiotics do not work on viruses and are not given to a child with croup.
Key points to remember:
- Try to keep your child calm, as breathing is often more difficult when your child is upset.
- Croup can get worse very quickly. If your child is having trouble breathing, seek urgent medical assistance.
- No treatment is necessary for mild croup, or the virus that has caused it.
- If you are at all concerned seek medical advice from a doctor.