Like some other childhood viral infections, such as roseola, which causes a fever followed by a rash, or fifth disease, with its slapped cheeks appearance, croup has distinctive symptoms that typically makes it easy to recognize.
Croup SymptomsChildren with croup are usually about 6 months to 6 years old, have a few days of a low grade fever, cough, and runny nose and then suddenly, typically in the middle of the night, they develop:
- the characteristic croupy or barky cough that sounds like a barking seal
- a hoarse voice
- difficulty breathing and inspiratory stridor (a snoring type noise kids with croup can make when they breath in), which can be confused with wheezing
- continued fever, which can be low grade or up to 102 or 104, although some kids with croup don't have any fever at all
See our guide to croup for information on common treatments for croup, which can most commonly include a steamy bathroom, cool mist humidifier, and steroids.
The Croupy CoughAlthough we often describe the cough of croup as sounding like a barking seal, how many people actually know what a seal bark sounds like?
Most importantly, you simply need to understand that the croupy cough of croup sounds much different than any other cough that your child will have from a cold, asthma, or bronchitis.
Severe Croup SymptomsAlthough most cases of croup are mild and can be treated with home treatments, some children do have more severe symptoms and do need immediate medical attention when they began having croup symptoms.
These more severe symptoms can include:
- difficulty breathing or stridor when your child is sleeping, calm, or not agitated
- having croup and being very fussy
- drooling and having trouble swallowing
- being very pale or having a bluish discoloration of his fingernails or around his mouth
- being lethargic
Behrman: Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics, 17th ed.
Viral croup. Knutson D - Am Fam Physician - 1-FEB-2004; 69(3): 535-40