Children’s Services
Colchester Hospital
Tel: 01206 742847

What is croup?

Croup is a condition that results in swelling and spasm in the upper part of the airway around the voice-box. This results in a distinct ‘barking’ cough.
It is common in young children up to the age of five years, and occasionally affects slightly older children. It is most often caused by a viral infection which starts with a runny nose and raised temperature. Some children have frequent episodes of croup due to having a narrow windpipe or swelling in the airway caused by other things such as allergies.

More Information

The airway spasm in croup will be worse if your child is distressed or crying, so it important to keep them calm and avoid upsetting them.

Mild croup can be treated at home with simple pain relief medication such as paracetamol or ibuprofen to keep them comfortable if they have a sore throat. If your child has breathing difficulties they may need a one-off dose of a steroid medication called dexamethasone to reduce the airway swelling. Sometimes a second dose may be needed in hospital or you may go home with a repeat dose to give later. Your child will be safe to go home when they no longer have signs of breathing difficulties.

Severe cases will need to be treated in hospital with other medicines and rarely need additional help with their breathing. The doctors and nurses caring for your child will be able to give you more information about this.

Like most coughs and colds, croup usually only lasts a few days.

Bring your child back to hospital if:

  • he or she has signs of breathing difficulties such as noisy breathing when calm, or their chest is sucking in when they breathe
  • they are getting worse or not getting better after a few days
  • they are having difficulty swallowing or dribbling lots despite having pain relief.
  • he or she is floppy or drowsy when they should be awake
  • they are struggling to breathe
  • they become very pale or blue.

Children’s Ward Tel: 01206 746209

Children’s Assessment Unit Tel: 01206 746200

Children’s Emergency Department Tel: 01206 742847