What should I do if my baby has croup?

croup treatment

What should I do if my baby has croup?

Croup is a viral infection of the upper airway that obstructs breathing. It is often most identifiable by a barking cough and a raspy voice as well as a high-pitched, squeaky noise when you breathe. These telltale signs are caused by the swelling of your larynx and windpipe. Croup is usually accompanied by cold symptoms such as fever or a runny nose.

Stridor starts to occur as the opening between vocal cords becomes narrower and as the disease worsens. Doctors may also hear wheezing or a phlegmy through a stethoscope. In the most serious cases, a child may appear pale or have a bluish color around the mouth due to a lack of oxygen.

Croup usually lasts for 3 to 7 days, and young children under three years old are most at risk. Symptoms of croup are often worse at night and when a child is upset or crying.

Kids Clinic has come up with a guide on how to treat children and babies with croup, as well as when to bring them to the doctor.


  • Medications: Your doctor may prescribe an anti-inflammatory steroid (either oral or nebulised) to reduce the swelling of the windpipe and vocal cords. In severe cases, an inhalation treatment with nebulised adrenaline and oxygen may also be given.
  • General: As with all viral infections, ensure lots of fluids and rest for your child. Most cases of croup are mild, and do not require hospitalisation.
  • Warm, moist air: You can run a hot shower to create a steam-filled bathroom where you can sit with your child for 5-10 minutes. This can sometimes help your child breathe easier and reduce coughing bouts.
  • Smoke exposure: Avoid having anyone smoke near your child, as this may make their symptoms worse.
  • Close observation: You may consider sleeping in the same room as your child when he is ill, so that you can monitor him/her more closely.

When to visit the doctor?

Consult your child’s doctor as soon as possible if:

  • Your child’s breathing is fast or difficult
  • Your child’s stridor recurs or is persistent
  • Your child is lethargic
  • There is poor feeding and there are signs of dehydration (e.g. dry lips/mouth, reduced tears, sunken eyes, reduced urine, reduced activity)
  • Your child has an underlying medical problem (e.g. prematurity, heart or lung disease, muscle weakness etc)
  • Your child appears pale or blue
  • The symptoms persist for more than a week


To prevent croup, practice the same steps you use to prevent colds and flu.

  • Frequent hand-washing
  • Keep your child away from anyone who’s sick
  • Encourage your child to cough or sneeze into his or her elbow


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