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Upper Respiratory Infection In Children


An upper respiratory infection is also called a cold. It can affect your child's nose, throat, ears, and sinuses. The common cold is usually not serious and does not need special treatment. Healthy children usually get at least 5 to 8 colds each year. Your child's cold symptoms will be worst for the first 3 to 5 days. His cold should be gone in 7 to 14 days. Your child may continue to cough for 2 to 3 weeks.



Always talk to your child's primary healthcare provider (PHP) before you give younger children and babies any medicine. Most cough and cold medicines should not be given to a child younger than 3 years old.

  • Decongestants: Ask if you should give your child a decongestant to treat his stuffy nose. Read the label before you give over-the-counter medicine to your child. The label will tell you how much medicine to give to your child, based on his age and weight. You may also ask your child's PHP how much medicine to give your child. This medicine may make your child restless. If your child has trouble sleeping, do not give this medicine to him before naps or bedtime.

  • Ibuprofen or acetaminophen: These medicines are given to decrease your child's pain and fever. They can be bought without a doctor's order. Ask how much medicine is safe to give your child, and how often to give it.

  • Give your child's medicine as directed. Call your child's healthcare provider if you think the medicine is not working as expected. Tell him if your child is allergic to any medicine. Keep a current list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs your child takes. Include the amounts, and when, how, and why they are taken. Bring the list or the medicines in their containers to follow-up visits. Carry your child's medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

  • Do not give aspirin to children under 18 years of age: Your child could develop Reye syndrome if he takes aspirin. Reye syndrome can cause life-threatening brain and liver damage. Check your child's medicine labels for aspirin, salicylates, or oil of wintergreen.

Follow up with your child's healthcare provider as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your child's visits.

Care for your child:

  • Help your child to rest: It may be easier for your child to breathe if his head is raised. Raise the bed or use pillows to do this. Once your child begins to feel better, let him do more.

  • Use a cool-mist humidifier: This will add moisture to the air and help your child breathe easier. Make sure the humidifier is out of reach of your child.

  • Make sure your child drinks enough liquids each day: Ask your child's PHP how much liquid your child should drink. Offer your child juice, popsicles, soups, or tea. Your child's PHP may also suggest other drinks that have extra sugars and salts.

  • Soothe your child's throat: If your child is 8 years or older, have him gargle with salt water. Make salt water by adding ¼ teaspoon salt to 1 cup warm water. Children who are 4 years or older may suck on hard candy, cough drops, or throat lozenges. Do not give anything with honey in it to children younger than 1 year old.

  • Clear your baby's nose of mucus: Use a bulb syringe to remove mucus from a baby's nose. Squeeze the bulb and put the tip into one of your baby's nostrils. Gently close the other nostril with your finger. Slowly release the bulb to suck up the mucus. Empty the bulb syringe onto a tissue. Repeat the steps if needed. Do the same thing in the other nostril. Make sure your baby's nose is clear before he feeds or sleeps. Your child's PHP may recommend you put saline drops into your baby's nose if the mucus is very thick.

  • Continue breastfeeding: If you are a breastfeeding mother, continue breastfeeding your baby. Your breast milk may help protect your baby from certain infections.

Prevent the spread of a cold:

  • Wash your and your child's hands often. Teach your child to cover his nose and mouth when he sneezes, coughs, and blows his nose.

  • Do not let your child share toys, pacifiers, or towels with others while he is sick.

  • Do not let your child share foods, eating utensils, cups, or drinks with others while he is sick.

  • Try to keep your child away from other people during the first 3 to 5 days of his cold when it is more easily spread.

Contact your child's primary healthcare provider if:

  • Your child has a fever or develops a rash.

  • Your child's eyes are red and have yellow fluid coming out of them.

  • Your child's cold is worse after 3 to 5 days or has not gotten better in 10 days.

  • Your child complains of an earache or is repeatedly pulling on his ears.

  • Your child will not drink liquids or will not breastfeed.

  • Your child is urinating less than normal. If your child is a baby, call if his diaper has been dry for 8 hours.

  • You have questions about your child's condition or care.

Seek care immediately or call 911 if:

  • Your child has trouble breathing.

  • Your child has a dry mouth, cracked lips, cries without tears, or is dizzy.

  • You cannot wake up your child, or you cannot keep him awake.

  • Your baby has a weak cry, limp, or a poor suck.

  • Your child complains of stiff neck and a bad headache.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.