Now Hiring! Apply Today!

Insurance Information Nursing Careers

Croup: Causes, Symptoms, and When to Go to the ER

Croup: Causes, Symptoms, and When to Go to the ER

Did your child suddenly develop a barking cough, make a whistling sound when breathing, or have trouble breathing? It might be croup.

Croup is a respiratory infection caused by a virus. The majority of these cases are mild, however, they can also be serious, most especially for babies and young children.

What is croup?

What is croup? Croup is a viral illness that commonly affects children. It causes swelling in the upper airway, making breathing difficult, causing changes in the child’s voice, and developing a cough that sounds like a bark or seal.

The condition typically lasts for five days. During the onset of illness, the child will normally have cold-like symptoms, such as a runny nose, fever, and cough. Parents have to monitor their child closely since complications like pneumonia or ear infections can occur.

Preventing the spread

Similar to other viral infections, croup can spread through the air or by physical contact. The tips below can help prevent the spread in your home and the community.

  • Wash and disinfect toys, most especially if your child shares them with others.
  • Wash your hands before taking care of a baby or young child.
  • Encourage your child to cover their nose and mouth when sneezing or coughing.
  • Teach your child proper handwashing techniques.
  • Do not send your child to daycare or school if they are unwell.
  • Throw used tissues responsibly.

Croup symptoms

Your child might have cold-like symptoms initially such as congestion, runny nose, and a slight cough. Eventually, the cough might sound like a barking seal. They may begin making a wheezing sound when they breathe and their voice might become hoarse.

The wheezing sounds and cough are caused by an inflammation in the voice box, upper airways, and the windpipe, making breathing hard.

In severe cases, the child may have a bluish hue around their mouth or may appear pale due to a lack of oxygen. If this happens, be sure to call 911 right away.

Croup can also cause a rash, swollen lymph nodes, and redness around the eyes. The child may also develop a fever. Croup symptoms tend to worsen in the evening or when the child is crying or upset. 

When to go to the emergency room

Thankfully, the majority of croup cases are mild and can be treated safely at home. But if you suspect that your child’s case is serious, it’s time to go to your local emergency room.

Below are the symptoms of a medical emergency.

  • Labored or fast breathing
  • Difficulty breathing
  • High-pitched sounds when taking breaths
  • Retractions (this condition causes the skin surrounding the ribcage to suck inwards when breathing)
  • Bluish or grayish color around the mouth or fingernails
  • Paleness
  • Trouble swallowing

Another danger that is associated with croup is dehydration. If your child has very dark urine or is not urinating, please go to your nearest Bryan emergency room. Warning signs of dehydration include dry mouth, exhaustion, sunken eyes, or when the infant or child is not shedding tears when crying.

Do not hesitate to bring your child to your local Cibolo ER if you suspect that he or she needs immediate medical help. We have board-certified doctors and qualified medical staff available to treat your child.


“Croup,” John Hopkins Medicine,
“Croup,” Mayo Clinic,
“What is Croup? Symptoms, Treatment, and When to Worry,” Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia,