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Croup Symptoms & Diagnosis


Symptoms are usually preceded by an upper respiratory infection. Croup symptoms come on suddenly, often at night.

Symptoms may include:

  • Cough spasms
  • Cough that sounds like a barking seal
  • Hoarseness
  • Fever
  • Harsh, high-pitched breath sounds, especially when crying or upset
  • Trouble breathing
  • Poor appetite and fluid intake

More serious symptoms of croup that may require immediate medical attention include:

  • Bluish color of the nails and lips, or around the mouth—This is an absolute emergency. Call 911.
  • Decreased alertness—This is also a very serious symptom; call 911.
  • Restlessness or agitation—This can be due to dangerous lack of oxygen.
  • Struggling for each breath
  • Harsh, high-pitched breath sounds even at rest
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Drooling
  • Inability to speak due to trouble breathing


The doctor will ask about your child's symptoms and medical history, and perform a physical exam.

Tests, if indicated, may include:

  • Blood tests—to check for signs of infection
  • Neck x-rays—to look for changes associated with croup
  • Laryngoscopy —a thin tube inserted into the mouth to look at throat tissue (A culture of mucus from the windpipe may be taken during this procedure and tested for infection.)

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Copyright © 2023 EBSCO Publishing All rights reserved.

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