Barking cough is a breathing difficulty most common in children between the ages of 3 and 5, and is characterised by a swelling around the vocal cords.

Its most common form is the viral croup and it displays the most noticeable symptoms as well. Children between the ages of 6 months and 3 years are most likely to be affected with it, but it’s not uncommon in children of older ages. Certain children are just more prone to developing barking cough than others when their upper respiratory system gets infected. A majority of the cases of this type of barking cough are mild in nature and need no medical intervention.

Then there is the spasmodic croup, which develops more quickly in children who have already been suffering with a cold. It stars at the night, but always happens in the absence of a fever. It’s a recurring infection.


The symptoms of barking cough manifest themselves 2-3 days after the virus has already infected the upper respiratory system. The cough itself doesn’t last for more than a week.

In the beginning, your child may display symptoms similar to the ones when he suffers from a cold – like a runny or stuffy nose. With the increased inflammation of the upper airway, the voice of the child becomes hoarse, and the cough afterwards sounds mildly like a bark of a seal. Hence the term barking cough. This sound is a characteristic feature of croup.

If the inflammation doesn’t stop, then even the mere action of inhalation of air starts producing a noise similar to a high pitched squeak. Sometimes, the child may even begin to breathe quickly as a result. In severe cases, the skin develops a bluish tint (because of lack of oxygen) and children suffering from it appear pale.

Night time can be difficult for children as it is during this time that the symptoms worsen, especially when the children cry. Sometimes, the same virus which infected the upper respiratory system can infect the bronchi as well, thus spreading the infection.


In most cases of croup, your child can be recuperated at home. Open the windows and let them breathe in fresh air, and give them plenty of fluids to drink. Medicines like ibuprofen can be given to children over the age of 8 months. Make sure that they get a lot of rest.

If you live in a dry environment or if the weather isn’t humid enough for you, just go to your kitchen, boil 5 cups of water in a pan, and let your child inhale the steam from it gently and from a distance.  This can sometimes alleviate severe coughing. During winters, a whiff of cool breeze will do the same trick as steam in the summer.

If possible, spend the nights with your child, because it is during those times that they require your attention the most. If despite the measures you’ve taken you’re unable to get rid of your child’s symptoms, contact a doctor.

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