Your Health

New video tells parents what to do when their child has the croup

Sick young girl.
Photo of Dr. Terry Klassen.
Winnipeg Regional Health Authority
Published Friday, February 3, 2017

You wake up in the night, alerted by a seal-like barking sound.

But it’s not the family pet making the noise; it’s your two-year-old child.

And upon closer inspection, you notice some other symptoms – a fever and a high-pitched breathing sound with every inhalation.

Both the barking cough and the high-pitched breathing are hallmarks of croup, a common respiratory illness caused by a viral infection. Other symptoms include a sore throat and runny nose.

But the knowledge of what your child is suffering from isn’t much comfort at 2 a.m.

That’s why a new video that talks about the symptoms and treatment of croup, including what you can do at home, is something all parents of young children should put on their must-watch list. The video is produced by researchers at the University of Alberta, in conjunction with the Translating Emergency Knowledge for Kids (TREKK) team in Winnipeg, in order to empower parents.

As the video explains, croup can affect any child from infancy to around age six, but generally affects children around the age of two. The symptoms can improve during the day, but come back at night.

Serious cases of croup are rare. If your child has severe trouble breathing, turns blue or becomes unresponsive, you should call 911 immediately.

However, most of the symptoms can be treated at home. Most kids get better within two days, but some may have symptoms lasting up to 10 days.

As the video suggests, you can treat croup at home by giving your child an age-appropriate dose of acetaminophen or ibuprophen for the fever (following directions on the package), and ensure they drink plenty of clear fluids to keep hydrated.

Another possible treatment involves bundling up your child and taking them to an open window or outside to breathe in the cold air for about 15 minutes. This may seem contrary to your instinctive need to keep your child warm, but it works! Another method is to run a cool-mist vapourizer or take your child into the bathroom while you run a cool shower to increase the humidity in the air.

If your child’s breathing doesn’t improve after 15 minutes of either of these treatments, seek help. One of your first resources is the Health Links – Info Santé phone line, at 204-788-8200 or toll-free 1-888-315-9257. You can speak with a nurse about your child’s symptoms and obtain advice on whether to go to your health-care provider or to an emergency department.

According to Dr. Scott Sawyer, Medical Director for the Children’s Emergency Unit at Health Sciences Centre Winnipeg, croup is a very common reason for parents to bring infants and toddlers to the Children’s Emergency Department. He says most cases occur in the fall and winter, so they are seeing an increase in cases of croup now.

If your child is diagnosed with croup by a health-care provider, they may be given a steroid (usually given as a syrup into the mouth) to decrease the inflammation in their airways and help with their breathing.

Like any cold virus, there are steps you can take to prevent croup, such as washing your hands, your child’s hands and making sure your child’s vaccinations are up to date.

TREKK also has an eBook about croup, which has interactive features, including the typical sounds of a child with croup and more details on treating croup.

It can be scary when your little one is sick with croup, but with a little knowledge, you can help your child feel better soon.

Dr. Terry Klassen is a pediatric emergency physician, Medical Director of the Child Health Program with the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority, CEO and Scientific Director of the Children’s Hospital Research Institute of Manitoba, and the Director of TREKK. This column was originally published in the Winnipeg Free Press on Friday, February 3, 2017.

Bookmark Email Print Share this on Facebook SHARE Share this on Twitter Tweet RSS Feeds RSS
Make text smaller Make text bigger
Traditional Territories Acknowledgement
The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority acknowledges that it provides health services in facilities located in Treaty One and Treaty Five territories, the homelands of the Métis Nation and the original lands of the Inuit people. The WRHA respects and acknowledges harms and mistakes, and we dedicate ourselves to collaborate in partnership with First Nation, Métis and Inuit people in the spirit of reconciliation.
Click here to read more about the WRHA's efforts towards reconciliation

WRHA Accessibility Plan Icon
Wait Times
View the Winnipeg Health Region's current approximate Emergency Department and Urgent Care wait times.

View wait times
Find Services
Looking for health services in Winnipeg?

Call Health Links-Info Sante at 788-8200

Search 211 Manitoba

Explore alternatives to emergency departments at

Find a Doctor
Contact Us
Do you have any comments or concerns?

Click here to contact us
The Winnipeg Health Region has a variety of career opportunities to suit your unique goals and needs.

Visit our Careers site
WRHA Logo Help| Terms of Use | Contact Us | En français