What’s Causing Your Child’s Barking Cough?

Children with croup, a contagious upper airway infection, have a distinct barking cough that sounds like a seal. The virus most commonly affects babies and toddlers. The good news: There are plenty of things that you can do at home to help your sick child feel better. Here, we break down everything you need to know about croup.

What are the symptoms of croup?

One of the most telltale signs of croup is the distinctive, dry barking cough. Other symptoms include:

  • Labored breathing, as a result of respiratory distress
  • Hoarse voice
  • Nasal congestion
  • Fever
  • Sore throat

What can you do to help alleviate your child’s barking cough?

At home, you can:

  • Have your child inhale steam (run a hot shower and have her stand in the bathroom, not the shower, and breathe the steam in)
  • Use a cold mist humidifier
  • Give your child lots of fluids
  • Stay calm; if your child is crying her breathing problems will worsen
  • Give her a fever reducer

If your child’s croup doesn’t get better through your efforts at home, her pediatrician might recommend:

  • Steroids
  • Epinephrine breathing treatments

When should you call the doctor about a croup cough?

Call your child’s pediatrician right away if your child is:

  • Having difficulty breathing or swallowing
  • Making high-pitched sounds when breathing
  • Breathing more rapidly than usual
  • Agitated
  • Fatigued

The doctor will be able to make a diagnosis and also develop a treatment plan to help your child recover and feel more comfortable.

Is croup dangerous?

Yes, croup can be dangerous. In severe cases, it can be life-threatening if left untreated because of the extreme difficulty with breathing. The younger a child is, the more dangerous the situation can be because the airway is so small. Get medical help immediately if your child has severe symptoms, like labored breathing or turning blue from lack of oxygen.

Croup can be serious, so it’s important to be informed about what it is and what to do if your child has the distinctive barking cough and other symptoms of the illness. With this knowledge, you’ll be more prepared to respond to croup if it ever occurs.

Related: Is Croup Contagious? Plus, Everything You Need To Know About This Nasty Cough