Q: Does croup happen only in the winter?
A: Most croup does occur in the winter, but there's no rule that says it can't strike during other seasons as well. This viral illness is best treated by having the child inhale cool, moist air all day long and especially at night. I also suggest dressing your baby warmly and going for a drive, preferably along a body of water, with the windows rolled down. It's important to note that a piece of food blocking part of the airway also can cause a "croupy" sound. If you have any doubt, call your doctor.
Q: My baby came down with a nasty case of croup recently. What's the best way to treat it? A: Croup is a viral illness that causes inflammation and narrowing of the respiratory passages, usually in infants and toddlers. Children with croup generally can inhale with no problem, but exhaling causes a barking, seal-like cough, which can sound a lot scarier than it really is. The best early treatment for croup is to take your baby outside into cool, moist air; you can also buy a cool-mist humidifier and let it "rain" directly on him.
I think of the cold mist as being analogous to holding a cold pack on a swollen ankle: It decreases blood flow to the area and helps reduce swelling. That's why, contrary to popular advice, I don't think steam from a hot shower works. If your child spikes a fever, try bringing it down with Infants' Tylenol (ask your pediatrician for the correct dose) and putting him in a lukewarm bath.
Call the doctor if his fever runs as high as 104° F or if he has trouble inhaling, as this indicates excessive narrowing of the respiratory tract. Also, ask your pediatrician about prescribing an oral steroid called Decadron that helps "shrink" the tight area.