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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. Most children get about 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.


Return to the emergency department if:

  • Your child has trouble breathing, is breathing faster than normal, or wheezing.
  • Your child has a dry mouth, cracked lips, cries without tears, or is dizzy.
  • You cannot wake 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.
  • You see pinpoint or larger reddish-purple dots on your child's skin.

Contact your child's healthcare provider if:

  • Your child has a rectal, ear, or forehead temperature higher than 100.4°F (38°C).
  • Your child has an oral or pacifier temperature higher than 100°F (37.8°C).
  • Your child has an armpit temperature higher than 99°F (37.2°C).
  • 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 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.


  • Acetaminophen decreases pain and fever. It is available without a doctor's order. Ask how much your child should take and how often you should give it to him. Follow directions. Acetaminophen can cause liver damage if not taken correctly.
  • NSAIDs , such as ibuprofen, help decrease swelling, pain, and fever. This medicine is available with or without a doctor's order. NSAIDs can cause stomach bleeding or kidney problems in certain people. If you take blood thinner medicine, always ask if NSAIDs are safe for you. Always read the medicine label and follow directions. Do not give these medicines to children under 6 months of age without direction from your child's healthcare provider.
  • 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.
  • 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.

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:

  • Have your child rest. Rest will help his body get better.
  • Use a cool-mist humidifier. This will add moisture to the air and help your child breathe easier.
  • Have your child drink liquids as directed. Liquids help keep your child's air passages moist and help him cough up mucus. Ask how much liquid your child should drink each day and which liquids are best for him.
  • 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. Do not give anything with honey in it to children younger than 1 year old.
  • Clear mucus from your child's nose. 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 healthcare provider may recommend you put saline drops into your baby's nose if the mucus is very thick.
    Proper Use of Bulb Syringe

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.

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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.