How is croup diagnosed?

Your doctor may ask questions about your child’s health, for example:

  • if they have recently had a cold or another respiratory tract infection
  • what symptoms they have
  • if they have taken any medicines
  • if they have any other medical conditions (e.g. asthma).

Your doctor may take your child’s temperature. A temperature 38.5°C or higher means your child may have a fever.

Fevers are common in young children, especially if they have a chest infection or after a vaccination. A fever (a temperature of 38.5°C or higher) doesn’t necessarily mean you or your child has a serious illness. In fact, a fever helps the body's immune system to fight infection.

Your doctor will listen to your child’s chest using a stethoscope (a medical device used to listen to your breathing and heart beat), but may not examine your child’s throat. This is to avoid upsetting your child, as the symptoms can get worse if your child is crying and upset.

A doctor will usually be able to diagnose croup from the characteristic symptoms of cough and abnormally noisy high-pitched breathing (stridor). Your doctor will decide how severe your child’s symptoms are and if they can be treated at home.

If your child has severe croup, they may have to go to hospital.

Children are more likely to develop severe croup if they have Down syndrome or a condition that normally causes breathing problems. This means that your doctor may recommend that your child go to hospital even if their symptoms are mild.

Read more about how to treat a fever, and the medicines and treatments for children with croup.

  • Respiratory Expert Group. Therapeutic guidelines: Croup. In: eTG complete [online]. Melbourne: Therapeutic Guidelines Limited, 2012 (accessed 12 April 2012).
  • Russell KF, Liang Y, O'Gorman K, et al. Glucocorticoids for croup. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2011, Issue 1. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD001955.pub3.
  • NHS Choices – croup: (accessed 18 April 201120)