Croup is common in young children aged 6 months to 5yrs of age. One in 50 – 100 children will get croup in their first year of life. It is more common in the winter months.

Croup often starts as a mild head ‘cold’. As the virus spreads to the voice box your child may develop a hoarse voice and a “barking cough” that becomes worse at night. Your child may also complain of a painful throat.

As the virus progresses your child will start to breathe faster, harder and develop noisy breathing. This noisy breathing is called a Stridor and is due to the air passing through the narrowed or swollen windpipe. Children with severe Croup may find it difficult to breathe as their windpipe becomes swollen due to the infection.

What to do at home:

  • Older children may adopt a position of comfort to help them breathe easier
  • Stay calm. If your child beomes anxious or upset the symptoms may become worse
  • Encourage small frequent feeds especially in the younger child to help increase their energy levels to fight the infection
  • Give Paediatric Paracetamol as per instructions on the bottle for fever and irritability
  • Remember – Paracetamol may be given every 4hrs or every 6hrs but only 4 doses in a 24hr period
  • If your child is having difficulty breathing seek medical attention as soon as possible.

When to see your doctor:

  • If you are worried or concerned
  • If your child’s breathing is getting worse, ie they are breathing faster, harder, and have noisy breathing
  • If your child tires, becomes pale, sweaty or more difficult to wake you need to seek medical attention ASAP. Dial 000 for an ambulance.

Treatment of Croup:

Mild croup may not require any medical treatment and get better in 3 – 4 days.
Moderate croup may require a medicine (steroids) called Prednislone (given by mouth) or Pulmicort (given by mask or nebuliser) or both. These medicines reduce the swelling in the airways allowing your child to breathe more easily.
Severe croup - Adrenaline is the drug of choice given via a mask with Oxygen which opens up the airways while waiting for the Prednislone and Pulmicort to have an effect.
Antibiotics won’t help as Croup is usually caused by a virus.

Points to remember:

  • Croup is often mild but can worsen quickly
  • If your child is breathing fast and hard or is distressed contact or seek medical attention
  • Croup is often worse at night - Keep your child calm and call 000 rather than drive your child to the hospital yourself.


This information has being prepared by Laura Mulcahy for First Aid Demonstrations and has being gained through current journals, conferences, workshops, study days and Paediatric Best Practice Treatments and Guidelines from various Paediatric Hospitals throughout Australia. This information should be used as a guideline only. Please speak to your Health Care Professional if you have concerns about your child’s condition.

Fact Sheets

Fever Fact Sheet


Febrile Convulsions


Head Injuries


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