Skip to Content

Upper Respiratory Infection In Children

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:

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. Most children get about 5 to 8 colds each year.

What causes 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, such as a toy, 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. Colds are caused by viruses and do not get better with antibiotics. 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:

  • Have your child rest. Rest will help his body get better.
  • 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.
  • 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
  • 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.
  • 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 your child's reach.
  • 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.

How can I help my child prevent the spread of 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 seek immediate care?

  • 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.

When should I contact my child's healthcare provider?

  • 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.

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.

© 2015 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.

Hide