Pediatric first aid: How to recognise and treat croup

Croup is a viral infection of the airways in children. It is most common between the ages of 6 months and 3 years although it can occur in older children and rarely adults.

The infection causes mild swelling in the throat which leads to problems with the child’s breathing.

Signs and symptoms of croup

  • Characteristic barking cough – click here for an example
  • Hoarse / croaky voice
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Cold like symptoms: fever, cough etc.

These symptoms often are worse at night.

First aid treatment for croup

Mild croup can often be managed at home with advice from a medical professional. However if you are concerned or the child has significant difficulty in breathing then you should seek urgent medical attention.

  1. Seek medical attention. The child may require medicines to help with the swelling in the throat
  2. Use simple painkillers such as Paracetamol / Acetaminophen (if allowed) to reduce any fever and pain
  3. Monitor regularly and ensure the child remains adequately hydrated

Steam treatment at home is no longer recommended as there is no evidence that it helps relieve symptoms of croup. 



John Furst

JOHN FURST is an experienced emergency medical technician and qualified first aid and CPR instructor. John is passionate about first aid and believes everyone should have the skills and confidence to take action in an emergency situation.

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