A terrifying sound came out of Owen Humphreys’ 3-year-old son, Reuben, one that he had never heard before. It left the British dad baffled and in a panic.

According to the Chronicle of Newcastle upon Tyne in the U.K., it started when Humphreys’ partner and Reuben’s mother, Stephanie Koch, noticed their son wasn’t acting right while they were on vacation. But at the time, neither parent was prepared to listen to their toddler struggle to take a breath with a barking sound coming out of him.

The child began to cough and lost his voice before the “fierce” bark began. The pair took their son to the doctor when the frightening noise didn’t go away.

They were told he had an upper chest cough, but the fearful parents thought it had to be something else. And when he was still making strange noises the next day, they went a step further for an answer.

They took Reuben to a walk-in center, where he was whisked away in an ambulance to the hospital.

Owen explained:

“Within 24 hours he went from a happy little boy running around on holiday to being in intensive care.”

The 3-year-old boy was diagnosed with a severe case of croup, a childhood illness affecting the windpipe, airways, and lungs. The condition was causing the barking sound he was making.

The parents were shocked to hear the diagnosis. Humphreys said:

“I’m a dad and I had never even heard of croup.”

According to the Mayo Clinic the sound Reuben was making is a side effect of the condition:

When a cough forces air through this narrowed passage, the swollen vocal cords produce a noise similar to a seal barking. Likewise, taking a breath often produces a high-pitched whistling sound (stridor).

The condition is usually caused by a viral infection, most often a parainfluenza virus. Fever and a hoarse voice are common with the croup.

The Mayo Clinic suggests seeking immediate medical attention if your child:

  • Makes noisy, high-pitched breathing sounds (stridor) both when inhaling and exhaling.
  • Begins drooling or has difficulty swallowing.
  • Seems anxious and agitated or fatigued and listless.
  • Breathes at a faster rate than usual.
  • Struggles to breathe.
  • Develops blue or grayish skin around the nose, mouth or fingernails (cyanosis).

Children between 6 months and 3 years of age are most at risk for croup, with peak incidence happening around 24 months of age.

Owen Humphreys is sharing his story to raise awareness about the condition, and to alert parents of the signs to look out for.

Reuben has been showing signs of improvement after being placed under sedation as part of his treatment.

Listen to the sad sound of the child struggling to breathe below.

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