Coughs & croup

Coughing helps to clear the airways in the chest and throat. A cough can have many causes, for example a viral or bacterial infection, asthma, something irritating the airways or choking on an object.

Cough mixtures are not recommended for children under 2 years as they may stop the cough which is helping to clear their airways, or they may have side effects. Talk to a doctor or a pharmacist before giving young children cough mixtures. Some cough mixtures make babies drowsy.

It is important to see a doctor if you are worried about your child’s cough, it is wheezy, makes them vomit, has a whooping sound, is chesty (rattling sounding cough), they have noisy breathing or difficulty breathing, are breathing quickly, they are still coughing after choking on something or the cough is not getting better.


Croup is caused by a viral infection. It usually starts with the symptoms of a cold, then some children develop a barking cough and noisy breathing. It is more common in children 3 months to 3 years.

Croup can be frightening for both your child and yourself. A child with croup may breathe quickly, have a barking cough, make a grunting sound when breathing in, have a fever and be irritable. It often starts quickly, usually at night, then improves in the morning and becomes worse again at night. In most children croup lasts 3 to 7 days.

They may be comforted and calmed by using a quiet, reassuring voice and cuddling them close while holding them upright to help their breathing. Offering drinks may help soothe the cough.

Your child needs to be seen by a doctor quickly if they are distressed, have difficulty breathing, are breathing quickly, grunting when breathing or you are worried. If your child turns blue you should ring 111 for an ambulance.


For help and advice call PlunketLine 0800 933 922, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
If your child is sick please call Healthline, 0800 611 116, New Zealand's 24-hour telephone health advice service. All calls are answered by registered nurses.
In an emergency phone 111.
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