What is a barking cough?

A barking cough is a dry, harsh cough that resembles the sound of a barking seal. This type of cough is most often associated with croup (laryngotracheitis). Croup is usually caused by viruses. Bacterial infection may occur secondarily. Parainfluenza virus type 1 is the most common cause of croup; other causes include respiratory syncytial virus and influenza virus. Croup causes swelling and inflammation of the area around your voice box (larynx). In some cases, this swelling can become severe and lead to a blocked airway (airway occlusion). Children are especially vulnerable to developing a blocked airway because of the small size of their airways.

A barking cough can have other causes, such as diphtheria, inhaling a foreign object, choking, or infection of the epiglottis (epiglottitis). Your epiglottis is the flap of cartilage that covers your windpipe (trachea) and prevents food from entering the bronchi and lungs.

In some cases, a cough with a barking quality may occur with the common cold. In addition, a barking cough is sometimes used to describe the cough that occurs with pertussis (whooping cough). However, a cough associated with this disease is usually described as a having “whooping” sound as the person gasps for air.

In children, a barking cough can be a sign of a life-threatening condition, such as a blocked airway. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you, your child, or someone you are with, have serious respiratory symptoms, such as an untreated barking cough, abnormal breathing sounds, difficulty breathing, pale or blue lips or skin, drooling, difficulty swallowing, extreme irritability, sore throat, high fever, and shaking chills.


What other symptoms might occur with a barking cough?

A barking cough may accompany other symptoms, which vary depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition.

A barking cough is often caused by croup. Croup usually starts as a mild cold with a fever, runny nose, poor appetite, and an occasional cough. As the illness progresses, the cough becomes... Read more about barking coughsymptoms


What causes a barking cough?

A barking cough is most often associated with croup, a respiratory disease usually caused by a viral infection that mainly affects infants and children. A barking cough can also be caused by other factors that irritate and cause inflammation and swelling of the vocal cords, such as a bacterial infection or exposure to an allergen or an irritant, such as regurgitated stomach acid.

... Read more about barking coughcauses

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Annual Review Date: Aug 23, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Ear, Nose and Throat

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