A croup cough can be frightening for children and their parents. Children with croup have a cough that sounds like the bark of a seal. The child may also have a hoarse voice or cry, runny nose, fever, and be sleepy or fussy. “Croup is often caused by a viral infection,” said Sarah Bannister, DO, a pediatric hospitalist at Banner Health in Arizona.
Most children with croup recover at home without treatment. But sometimes with severe symptoms you’ll hear stridor—harsh, noisy breathing that’s often worse at night. “These symptoms may require medical attention,” Dr. Bannister said. Call your pediatrician for advice or reach out to telehealth or in-person urgent care.
Croup is most common in young children, 6 months to 3 years old. If your child gets croup at age 6 or older, talk to your pediatrician or a specialist to investigate what’s behind the croup cough.
Adults can catch the same infection. But adults usually get a hoarse voice or laryngitis, not a barky cough. That’s because our anatomy changes as we grow—it’s the shape of children’s airways that leads to the distinctive cough of croup.
What about croup and COVID-19?
Like croup, COVID-19 is a viral infection. “Kids could get both infections at the same time,” Dr. Bannister said. “Good hand washing and staying home when you are sick can help prevent catching and spreading these illnesses.” COVID-19 can cause a cough, runny nose, fever, and difficulty breathing. If your child has any symptoms that make you think it could be COVID-19, follow up with your child’s pediatrician or primary care provider for further testing.
If you’re concerned about your child’s cough or infection, call their doctor. To find a Banner Health doctor in your area and schedule an appointment, visit bannerhealth.com.
If you can’t reach the doctor, you can also call the Banner Nurse Now line at 844-259-9494 for free health care advice anytime.