Does your baby have a barking cough? It could be croup

Croup often begins as a typical cold. Look out for these signs and symptoms.


Croup is usually caused by a virus and is also known as Laryngo-tracheo-bronchitis, as it’s an inflammation of the larynx (where the voice box is), and parts of the airway (the trachea and bronchi.) The inflammation causes narrowing of the airway that obstructs breathing and causes the characteristic barking cough.

Symptoms of croup

  • Croup often begins as a typical cold. If there’s enough inflammation and coughing, your child will develop a loud barking cough together with a stridor (a crowing sound when breathing in), as well as a hoarse voice. This often worsens at night and is further aggravated by crying and coughing, as well as anxiety and agitation. The aforementioned sets up a cycle of deteriorating symptoms.
  • Fever is common too and your child’s breathing may be noisy or labored. Because children have small airways, they’re most susceptible to having more marked symptoms with croup – particularly children younger than three.

ALSO SEE: Different types of coughs and how to treat them

Medical treatment

A virus usually causes croup and in most cases it can be managed safely at home. But call your healthcare provider for advice, as those middle-of-the-night coughing bouts can be daunting. Cool or moist air might help relieve symptoms, so try using a humidifier, cool air vaporiser or sitting in a steamy bathroom. Nebulising with a steroid will also help. Treat the fever symptomatically and chat to your doctor about cough syrups before administering.

ALSO SEE: How to choose a humidifier

The natural approach

Croup can be scary for both you and your child. Comforting and keeping your little one calm are important because crying and agitation worsen airway obstruction. Hold your child, sing lullabies or read stories quietly. Offer a favourite blanket or toy, and speak in a soothing voice. Chat to your homeopath about Spongia and Bromine, which may offer your child relief.

When to seek professional help

Always consult your doctor if your child has any difficulty breathing, if symptoms continue for longer than three to five days, or if they worsen. In this case, cortisone may be prescribed to reduce inflammation in the airway – the benefits will be felt within six hours.

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