Croup is a respiratory infection that can cause trouble breathing. Children with croup develop a harsh, barking cough and can make a noisy, high-pitched sound when they breathe in.

It’s more common in winter and mostly affects children between 6 months and 6 years but can affect older children.

Signs and symptoms

Croup usually starts with common cold symptoms including:

  • mild fevers
  • a runny nose.

Within a couple of days of these first symptoms, your child might also:

  • have a harsh barking cough - they may also sound like a seal and have a croaky voice
  • make noisy sounds when breathing in
  • struggle to breathe
  • breathe faster than normal
  • have a sore throat
  • loss of appetite, including not wanting to drink.

Symptoms often start at night and may get better during the day.

When to get help

See your GP if your child has any croup symptoms.

If your child has croup and it's getting worse, take them to the closest emergency department.

If you're not sure whether to go to an emergency department, call 13 HEALTH (13 43 25 84) and speak to a registered nurse.

Call Triple Zero (000) and ask for an ambulance if your child is:

  • breathing quickly
  • struggling to breathe
  • pale, blue or grey.

What causes croup

Croup is caused by a virus that makes the voice box, windpipe and the large airways in the lungs swell.

How croup is diagnosed

Your GP will examine your child and ask about their symptoms and if they’ve had croup before. They won’t usually do a test.


There's no specific treatment. Your child will usually feel better in 3 to 4 days:

If your child has croup, your GP may recommend the following to help with their symptoms:

  • pain medicines such as paracetamol or ibuprofen
  • liquid steroids if your child has noisy breathing
  • medicine through a mask for severe symptoms – the mask is also known as a nebuliser.

Care at home

Most of the time, you can treat croup at home. Here are some things you can do to make your child feel better when they have croup.

  • Keep them calm - crying can make the croup sound worse.
  • Encourage them to sit upright - this can help them breathe easier.
  • Give them pain medicines like paracetamol or ibuprofen - follow the instructions on the package or bottle for the correct dosage.

Developed by the Emergency Department, Queensland Children's Hospital. We acknowledge the input of consumers and carers.

Resource ID: FS011. Reviewed:  August 2023.

Disclaimer: This information has been produced by healthcare professionals as a guideline only and is intended to support, not replace, discussion with your child’s doctor or healthcare professionals. Information is updated regularly, so please check you are referring to the most recent version. Seek medical advice, as appropriate, for concerns regarding your child’s health.

Last updated: October 2023