Croup

 

Croup is a common childhood illness that can cause a distinctive, bark-like cough. It can also cause difficulty breathing which can be frightening for both you and your child.

Read more about croup and the symptoms

Related topics: bronchiolitiscough and coldsCovid-19difficulty breathing

If your child has any of the following:

  • Breathing very fast or breathing that stops or pauses
  • Working hard to breathe, drawing in of the muscles below the rib, unable to talk or noisy breathing (grunting)
  • Becomes pale, blue, mottled and/or unusually cold to touch
  • Difficult to wake up, very sleepy or confused
  • Weak, high-pitched, continuous cry or extremely agitated
  • Has a fit (seizure)
  • A temperature less than 36oC or temperature 38oC or more if baby is less than 3 months
  • Develops a rash that does not disappear with pressure and seems unwell (see the 'Glass Test')

You need urgent help.

Go to the nearest Hospital Emergency (A&E) Department or phone 999

If your child has any of the following:

  • Breathing a bit faster than normal or working a bit harder to breathe
  • Dry skin, lips, tongue or looking pale
  • Not had a wee or wet nappy in last 12 hours
  • Sleepy or not responding normally
  • Crying and unsettled
  • Poor feeding (babies) or not drinking (children)
  • A temperature 39oC or above in babies 3-6 months
  • Temperature of 38oC or above for more than 5 days or shivering with fever(rigors)
  • Getting worse or you are worried about them

You need to contact a doctor or nurse today.

Please ring your GP surgery or call NHS 111 - dial 111

If your child has none of the above

Watch them closely for any change and look out for any red or amber symptoms

Additional advice is also available for families for help cope with crying in otherwise well babies

Self care

Continue providing your child’s care at home. If you are still concerned about your child, call NHS 111 – dial 111

This guidance has been reviewed and adapted by healthcare professionals across North East and North Cumbria with consent from the Hampshire development groups.

What is croup?

Croup (also called laryngotracheobronchitis) can be caused by several viruses which affect the airways including the voice box (larynx), windpipe (trachea) and lungs (the bronchi) causing them to swell and become narrower. It usually affects babies and young children between the ages of one and three years old. Some children have croup two or more times in their childhood.

What are the symptoms of croup?

Your child may have:

  • A cough – the cough is usually harsh and barking. This ‘croupy cough’ is due to inflammation and swelling of the vocal cords in the voice box (larynx).
  • Noisy breathing symptoms – the inflammation can narrow the voice box (larynx) and windpipe (trachea) and cause an extra noise called a stridor. This noise is normally heard on breathing in.
  • Breathing may become difficult if the narrowing becomes worse.
  • Other symptoms – these may include a runny nose, hoarseness and a sore throat. Croup may follow a cold but can also appear without any earlier illness. Children may also experience a high temperature (fever), general aches and pains and be off of their food.
  • The symptoms of croup appear worse at night. They usually peak after one to three days and then improve. A mild but irritating cough may persist for a further week or so.

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How can I help my child?
  • Stay calm in order to reassure your child – children with croup may become distressed and crying may make their symptoms worse.
  • Sit your child upright on your lap if their breathing is noisy or difficult. Let them find the most comfortable position.
  • Encourage your child to drink cool drinks regularly (little and often) to help soothe their throat and keep them hydrated.
  • Give your child paracetamol or ibuprofen liquid, following the instructions on the bottle.
  • If their temperature is high, dress them in cool, loose clothes (if any) and don’t use anything warmer than a sheet to cover them in bed.
  • Stay with your child, or check him or her regularly, as you need to know if the symptoms are getting worse.
  • Some people find that taking their child outside in the cool, fresh air helps to relieve their symptoms

For wear and tear, minor trips and everything in between.

Self-care

You can treat your child's very minor illnesses and injuries at home.

Some illnesses can be treated in your own home with support and advice from the services listed when required, using the recommended medicines and getting plenty of rest.

Sound advice

Children can recover from illness quickly but also can become more poorly quickly; it is important to seek further advice if a child's condition gets worse.

For information on common childhood illnesses go to What is wrong with my child?

Pharmacists are experts in many aspects of healthcare and can offer advice on a wide range of long-term conditions and common illnesses such as coughs, colds and stomach upsets. You don’t need an appointment and many have private consultation areas, so they are a good first port of call. Your pharmacist will say if you need further medical attention.

Sound advice

  1. Visit a pharmacy if your child is ill, but does not need to see a GP.
  2. Remember that if your child's condition gets worse, you should seek further medical advice immediately.
  3. Help your child to understand - watch this video with them about going to the pharmacy.

For information on common childhood illnesses go to What is wrong with my child?

Health visitors are nurses or midwives who are passionate about promoting healthy lifestyles and preventing illness through the delivery of the Healthy Child Programme. They work with you through your pregnancy up until your child is ready to start school.

Health Visitors can also make referrals for you to other health professionals for example hearing or vision concerns or to the Community Paediatricians or to the child and adolescent mental health services.

Contact them by phoning your Health Visitor Team or local Children’s Centre.

Click below to find information on your local health visiting team: 

North Cumbria

Northumberland

North Tyneside

Newcastle

Gateshead

South Tyneside

Sunderland

County Durham

Darlington

Hartlepool

Stockton

Middlesbrough

Redcar and Cleveland

Sound advice

Health visitors also provide advice, support and guidance in caring for your child, including:

  • Breastfeeding, weaning and healthy eating
  • Exercise, hygiene and safety
  • Your child’s growth and development
  • Emotional health and wellbeing, including postnatal depression
  • Safety in the home
  • Stopping smoking
  • Contraception and sexual health
  • Sleep and behaviour management (including temper tantrums!)
  • Toilet training
  • Minor illnesses

For more information watch the video: What does a health visitor do?

School nurses care for children and young people, aged 5-19, and their families, to ensure their health needs are supported within their school and community. They work closely with education staff and other agencies to support parents, carers and the children and young people, with physical and/or emotional health needs.

Contacting the School Nurse

Primary and secondary schools have an allocated school nurse – telephone your child’s school to ask for the contact details of your named school nurse.

There is also a specialist nurse who works with families who choose to educate their children at home.

Click the link below to find information on your local school nursing team: 

North Cumbria

Northumberland

North Tyneside

Newcastle

Gateshead

South Tyneside

Sunderland

County Durham

Darlington

Hartlepool

Stockton

Middlesbrough

Redcar and Cleveland

Sound Advice

Before your child starts school your health visitor will meet with the school nursing team to transfer their care to the school nursing service. The school nursing team consists of a school nursing lead, specialist public health practitioners and school health staff nurses.

They all have a role in preventing disease and promoting health and wellbeing, by:-

  • encouraging healthier lifestyles
  • offering immunisations
  • giving information, advice and support to children, young people and their families
  • supporting children with complex health needs

Each member of the team has links with many other professionals who also work with children including community paediatricians, child and adolescent mental health teams, health visitors and speech and language therapists. The school health nursing service also forms part of the multi-agency services for children, young people and families where there are child protection or safeguarding issues.

GPs assess, treat and manage a whole range of health problems. They also provide health education, give vaccinations and carry out simple surgical procedures. Your GP will arrange a referral to a hospital specialist should you need it.

Sound advice

You have a choice of service:

  1. Doctors/GPs can treat many illnesses that do not warrant a visit to A&E.
  2. Help your child to understand – watch this video with them about visiting the GP or going to a walk in centre

For information on common childhood illnesses go to What is wrong with my child?

If you’re not sure which NHS service you need, call 111. An adviser will ask you questions to assess your symptoms and then give you the advice you need, or direct you straightaway to the best service for you in your area.

Sound advice

Use NHS 111 if you are unsure what to do next, have any questions about a condition or treatment or require information about local health services.

For information on common childhood illnesses go to What is wrong with my child?

A&E departments provide vital care for life-threatening emergencies, such as loss of consciousness, suspected heart attacks, breathing difficulties, or severe bleeding that cannot be stopped. If you’re not sure it’s an emergency, call 111 for advice.

Sound advice

  1. Many visits to A&E and calls to 999 could be resolved by any other NHS services.
  2. If your child's condition is not critical, choose another service to get them the best possible treatment.
  3. Help your child to understand – watch this video with them about going to A&E or riding in an ambulance

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