Does your baby’s cough sound like a dog’s bark?

If so, it could be croup. Croup is a viral illness that makes your baby’s voice box and windpipe swell. The high-pitched or barking cough develops when air is forced against a narrowed.

The smaller your child is, the more noticeable the sound. Some children with severe croup get a harsh, tight sound while breathing in. This is called stridor.

When does it happen?


The virus that triggers croup can be passed on by breathing in respiratory droplets from a cough from an infected person, or from playing with toys that have the virus on them. Croup normally affects infants and children between the ages of six months and three years. As children grow, so do their airways. Therefore, children older than six don’t often get diagnosed with croup.

What are the symptoms?


You may notice the typical symptoms of a cold, like a runny nose and fever. Usually, the barky cough begins at night and gets worse when your child gets upset and cries. Croup usually lasts for around five days.

How is croup diagnosed?


The doctor will usually listen for a cough and stridor. They may also ask if your child has had any recent illnesses that caused a fever and congestion, and whether the child has a history of croup or other breathing problems.

He may also perform an X-ray if the croup is severe and doesn’t get better after treatment. An X-ray, in this case, will help show the top of the airway narrowing to a point, which doctors call a “steeple sign”. This is a narrowing of the airway below the vocal cords.

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Home treatment for croup

If your child wakes up in the middle of the night with croup, try to keep him calm to help ease his breathing. Crying can make croup worse.

For a fever, medicine like paracetamol, or ibuprofen for kids older than 6 months can help make your child more comfortable. Ask your doctor for guidance before giving your child any medication.

Help your child breathe in moist air. This can make him feel better.

  • Use a cool-mist humidifier or run a hot shower to create a steam-filled bathroom where you can sit with your child for 10 minutes. Breathing in the mist will sometimes stop the severe coughing.
  • In cooler weather, take your child outside to help ease symptoms so they can breathe fresh air.
  • Make sure your child is well-hydrated. If needed, give small amounts of liquid more often using a spoon or medicine dropper. Children with croup should also get lots of rest.

When to call the doctor


If you’re concerned that your child’s croup is not improving, contact your child’s doctor, especially if you see the following symptoms:

  • A sound that gets louder with each breath.
  • If your child speaks or makes verbal sounds for lack of breath.
  • Seems to be struggling to catch his breath.
  • Has blue lips or fingernails.
  • Has stridor when resting.
  • Drooling or extreme difficulty swallowing saliva.

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