Symptoms of Croup

The signs and symptoms of croup are:

  • The most characteristic symptom of croup is the loud barking cough. It is in fact so distinct that doctors can identify a croup cough even over the phone. People have likened the cough to the sound of a seal barking.
  • The cough is preceded by a mild cold and flu like symptoms in some cases.
  • As the infection advances, the vocal cords get swollen and the airways are narrowed. This can cause a sore throat and a fever.
  • As the croup progresses, the cough gets more frequent and intense.
  • Breathing becomes labored or involves a harsh sound made during inhalation (stridor).
  • Symptoms of croup become worse at night.
  • Feelings of agitation and irritability.
  • Symptoms of a croup last for five to six nights with the symptoms at their most severe during the first two nights of the infection.
  • Croup rarely lasts for more than a week. In case your child is exhibiting symptoms of croup for longer than a week, speak to you doctor, as there may another underlying condition causing the symptoms.
  • There are also cases of croup where symptoms are extremely severe. In such situations, the child is unable to lie down and needs to even sleep in an upright position. During breathing, there may be retractions of the skin around the collarbone and in between the ribs. Blueness of the skin or cyanosis may also occur. These are all indications of respiratory failure and require emergency medical treatment and hospitalization.
There is another form of croup known as acute spasmodic croup that is not so common. In such cases, children may seem totally well until they are put to bed. The barking croup cough will manifest itself suddenly at night along with labored breathing or stridor. Acute spasmodic croup does not have symptoms of fever and sore throat along with the cough.

During the day, the child appears well again but the coughing recurs once again at night. This cycle of on/off symptoms continue for a few nights until the condition transitions into a full-blown common cold for another few days.

In all cases of croup it is important not to wait to address the problem. Croup can cause life-threatening complications and your doctor should be intimated at the earliest in case your child is breathing in a labored fashion or is breathing rapidly, is drooling, is restless or unusually agitated, and has a high fever.

Frequently asked questions