Baby and Toddler Sickness: Croup

Upset baby with croup

What causes croup, the symptoms of it, treatment options and when to seek urgent medical help.

Croup is a viral respiratory infection that affects the upper airways. Babies and toddlers aged six months to three years of age are most at risk of contracting croup, but it can infect younger or older children as well.

The condition often begins with cold-like symptoms before developing into a harsh, bark-like cough and noisy breathing. The illness is often mild but can become serious quickly, so it’s important to seek medical help if you are worried about your child’s condition. As croup is a viral condition, it cannot be cured with antibiotics, however some children may be treated with steroid medicine if necessary.

Seek help for croup from your GP or a doctor at an after-hours medical clinic urgently if your baby or child:

  • Makes a harsh noise while breathing in (stridor) when they are calm and not upset.
  • Is having increasing difficulty with their breathing and you are concerned.
  • Is becoming inconsolably upset.
  • Has other signs of ill health, such as pale in colour, fever, cool or clammy hands or feet, or dribbling.
  • You are concerned for any other reason.

For more advice on keeping kids healthy, visit kidshealth.org.nz.

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