Croup is swelling of a child's airway, usually caused by a viral or bacterial infection. It’s most common in tamariki aged between 6 months and 2 years, during the autumn and winter months, and is usually worse at night. It rarely occurs over the age of 5.

Quick Help 

  • Call 111 for an ambulance if the child is struggling to breathe, or their lips go blue. 
  • Keep the child warm and hydrated.
  • Call Healthline on 0800 611 116 if you are unsure. 


What to look for

High-pitched wheeze 

The child is breathing with a whistling noise. 

Harsh or barking cough 

The child has a short, barking cough, like a seal.

Sucking in ribs 

The child’s ribs are sucking in as they try to breathe. 


The child may seem upset and distressed. 

Difficulty breathing 

They are breathing fast or struggling for breath. 

Blue lips 

Their lips or skin may be blue or grey (due to lack of oxygen). 


Croup is usually worse at night, or if it suddenly gets cold outside. Sometimes the child seems to have recovered, only to deteriorate again in the evening. 

If the child is struggling to breathe, or their lips go blue, call 111 for an ambulance. 


How you can help

Sit the child on your knee, and calmly reassure them. 

Keep them warm and hydrated.  

Avoid rapid changes in the surrounding temperature. 

Call your GP or Healthline if they don't improve, or get worse.  


How to call an ambulance 

When you call 111 our expert call handlers work with you to send the right response. 

First Aid Handbook 

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