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10 Symptoms of Croup

By By NRI Staff • Updated January 10, 2023

Croup is a highly contagious respiratory infection that primarily affects children. It is a viral infection that causes inflammation of the larynx and trachea, which leads to a hoarse voice and difficulty breathing. Croup is most common in children between the ages of 6 months and 3 years, but can occur in older children and adults as well.

Croup usually resolves on its own within 5-7 days, but can occasionally lead to more serious respiratory problems. The symptoms of croup are usually mild at first, but they can worsen quickly. Early diagnosis and treatment of croup is important to prevent progression to more serious respiratory illness.

Here are the top 10 signs of croup:

1. Hoarse Voice

Hearing a hoarse voice in a child is always a cause for concern, especially if the child has also been experiencing difficulty breathing. The child’s breath may sound “raspy” or “hoarse”, and they may have difficulty breathing. This symptom is often indicative of croup, a viral respiratory infection that can lead to inflammation of the larynx and trachea which leads to swelling of the vocal cords. The hoarseness may be mild or severe, and it may last for several days or weeks.

baby yawning

2. “Barking” Cough

The barking cough is a cough that is dry, persistent, and is caused by swelling and narrowing of the airways in the neck. It is also known as the seal bark because it is often mistaken for the bark of a seal. The barking cough can be a sign of many different illnesses, such as bronchitis, pneumonia, or even asthma. It is important to see a doctor if you are experiencing a barking cough, as it may be indicative of a more serious problem.

3. Fever

Fever is often present with croup, and may be the only symptom in some cases. In most cases, fever is accompanied by a hoarse voice, difficulty breathing, and a harsh, seal-like cough. However, in some cases, fever may be the only symptom of croup. If your child has a fever and you are concerned that they may have croup, be sure to call your doctor.

4. Difficulty Breathing

Croup often results in difficulty breathing. The virus that causes croup can inflame the vocal cords and trachea, which leads to an inflamed airway and difficulty breathing. The respiratory symptoms of croup are similar to those from a cold. The main difference between croup and a cold is that croup is more severe, causing inflammation of the airway and vocal cords.

5. Runny Nose

A runny nose is one of the most common symptoms of croup. Croup causes a runny nose due to inflammation and mucous production in the nose and throat. Some symptoms of croup, such as a runny nose, can sometimes be mistaken for the common cold.

man wiping mouse with tissue paper

6. Congestion

Croup is a viral infection that causes inflammation and narrowing of the airways. This can lead to difficulty breathing and congestion. It is believed that the inflammation in the airways restricts blood flow, which then reduces the amount of oxygen available to the lungs. This can cause the lungs to become congested and fill with fluid.

Woman in Gray Sweater Sitting on Gray Couch

7. Difficulty Eating or Drinking

Croup can also lead to difficulty eating or drinking. This is because the infection can cause the larynx, or voice box, to swell, which can block the airway and make it difficult to swallow. Swallowing difficulties can lead to dehydration, which can be dangerous for young children.

8. Wheezing

Croup causes inflammation in the voice box and airways. This inflammation can lead to wheezing, a whistling sound that occurs when air moves through narrowed air passages. Wheezing can be caused by inflammation of the larynx, or voice box, or by swelling of the vocal folds. Wheezing may occur when the child breathes in or tries to speak.

A Doctor Giving Medication to a Girl through a Nebulizer

9. Laryngitis

Croup can can also cause laryngitis which is an inflammation of the larynx, the voice box. Laryngitis can cause a hoarse voice, difficulty speaking, and a sore throat. Croup and laryngitis are both caused by viruses, so they are treated with the same medications. The main difference is that laryngitis usually comes on suddenly and can last for a few weeks, but croup lasts longer and usually affects children under 6 months old.

Boy in Pink Crew Neck Shirt Eating Ice Cream

10. Pneumonia

It’s important for parents to be aware of the dangers of croup, a common childhood infection. In some cases, croup can lead to pneumonia, a serious lung infection that can be life-threatening. Symptoms of pneumonia include coughing, chest pain, rapid breathing, and fever. If your child displays any of these symptoms, seek medical attention right away.

woman in black and white stripe shirt


In conclusion, it is important to be able to identify the signs and symptoms of croup. Although it can be frightening for parents and children, croup is a common childhood illness that can be treated at home. If you are unsure whether or not your child has croup, or if their symptoms are worsening, please consult a doctor.


Smith, Dustin K et al. “Croup: Diagnosis and Management.” American family physician vol. 97,9 (2018): 575-580.

Johnson, David Wyatt. “Croup.” BMJ clinical evidence vol. 2014 0321. 29 Sep. 2014

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