Upper Respiratory Infection In Children

What is an upper respiratory infection?

An upper respiratory infection is also called a common cold. It can affect your child's nose, throat, ears, and sinuses. Healthy children usually get at least 5 to 8 colds each year.

What are the causes of a cold?

The common cold is caused by a virus. There are many different cold viruses and each is contagious. This means it can easily be spread to another person when the sick person coughs or sneezes. It can also be spread if your child touches things, like toys, that a person with a cold has touched. Children get colds more often in winter.

What are the signs and symptoms of a cold?

Your child's cold symptoms will be worst for the first 3 to 5 days. Your child may have any of the following:

  • Runny or stuffy nose

  • Sneezing and coughing

  • Sore throat or hoarseness

  • Red, watery, and sore eyes

  • Tiredness or fussiness

  • Chills and a fever that usually lasts 1 to 3 days

  • Headache, body aches, or sore muscles

How is a cold treated?

There is no cure for the common cold. Your child's cold should be gone in 7 to 14 days. He may continue to cough for 2 to 3 weeks. The following are things that you may do to help your child feel better:

  • Cold care: Keep your child warm and let him get plenty of rest. Ask your child's caregiver how much liquid your child should drink. Keep your child's nose free of mucus. Help him to blow his nose or use a bulb syringe to clear a baby's nose. Use a cool-mist humidifier to help him breathe easier.

  • Medicines: Always talk to the caregiver before giving younger children and babies any medicine. Most cough and cold medicines should not be given to a child younger than 3 years old. Acetaminophen or ibuprofen are over-the-counter pain medicines that may help your child's fever or pain. Ask how much medicine is safe to give your child and how often to give it. Do not give aspirin to children younger than 18 years old.

How can I help my child from spreading a cold?

Wash your hands after you help your child. Teach your child to cover his mouth or nose when he coughs or sneezes. Do not let your child share food or drinks with anyone. Try to keep your child away from other people during the first 3 to 5 days of his illness when it is most easily spread.

When should I contact my child's caregiver?

Contact your child's caregiver if:

  • Your child has a fever.

  • 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 develops a rash.

  • Your child will not drink or 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 or concerns about your child's condition or care.

When should I seek immediate 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.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your child's care. Learn about your child's health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your child's caregivers to decide what care you want for your child. 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.

© 2014 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

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