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When your little one wakes in the night with a dry, barking cough – sounding a bit like a seal – it’s really alarming, and not just for first-time mums.
Thankfully, while croup sounds terrible and can be very distressing, it’s mostly harmless in otherwise healthy children.
An acute infection of the larynx (voice box) and the trachea, croup is characterised by a dry, barking cough and laboured breathing, and while it can sometimes follow on from a cold/cough, it can also hit from out of the blue.
Croup can be caused by either a viral or bacterial infection, which inflames the airways (bronchioles) in the lungs. As a result, very little air can get through which makes it difficult to breathe.
Viral croup usually affects babies. It is the milder form of the two and its symptoms are generally a slight cold and fever, which last for around three days. While antibiotics are no use for viral croup, if it continues for several days or he suddenly becomes very ill or is under six months old contact your GP, who can tell you whether he has bacterial croup, which can be treated with medication.
Signs to look out for:
A croup cough can sound like whooping cough, but while croup often starts soon after or at the same time as your child falls ill, whooping cough has three distinct phases.
Coping with croup
Attacks usually occur at night. Here’s what to do:
A steamy shower can help open up your little one’s airways and soothe a croupy cough.
Call your doctor straightaway if: