What is the difference between croup and epiglottitis?


Croup is an acute inflammation of the larynx and upper part of the trachea and is otherwise known as acute laryngotracheitis.

Features of croup

Croup is a viral illness. It affects children between the ages of two months and nine years with a peak at 18 months. The onset is usually preceded by two to three days of ‘cold’ symptoms. It can be an alarming condition, often worse at night


  • Harsh high-pitched stridor. Stridor is a harsh sound usually during inspiration caused by turbulent air-flow through and inflamed larynx and by vibration of the vocal cords. If the croup is severe the stridor will occur during both inspiration and expiration.
  • Loud, barking cough.
  • Restless and distress.
  • Temperature raised but not very high.


Epiglottitis is a serious inflammation of the epiglottis.

Features of epiglottitis

Epiglottitis is uncommon. It is caused by a bacterial infection. The peak incidence is at two to three years of age. It leads to severe airway obstruction and there is a high risk of death.


  • The child is very ill.
  • High temperature
  • Stridor not loud or harsh
  • Little stimulation to cough
  • Saliva dribbling from the mouth as swallowing is painful.

When epiglottitis is suspected, the child must be admitted to hospital as quickly as possible. Any examination of the throat is dangerous as it can precipitate airway obstruction.

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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