How can I prevent croup?

Q: My 15-month-old came down with a nasty case of croup last spring. Is there anything I can do to prevent it from happening again?

A: Croup is a viral illness that causes inflammation and narrowing of the respiratory passages, usually in babies and toddlers. Children with croup generally can inhale with no problem, but exhaling causes a barking, seallike cough, which can sound a lot scarier than it really is.

The best thing you can do to prevent croup is to breastfeed your baby, as it minimizes his chances of contracting any illness. If your baby does develop the infection, the best early treatment is to take him outside if the air is cool and moist--dress him warmly and drive him around in the car with the windows rolled down. The second best thing is to buy a cool-mist humidifier and let it "rain" directly on your child.

If your child spikes a fever, try bringing it down with Infants' Tylenol--one dropperful for every year of age, every four hours, is a good guideline--and by putting him in a lukewarm bath. If his fever runs as high as 104° F, call your pediatrician; also call if your child has trouble inhaling, as this indicates excessive narrowing of the respiratory tract.