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Upper Respiratory Infection

The Basics

Upper respiratory infections can be caused by a number of viruses or bacteria. One of the most common upper respiratory infections is the common cold, which is cased by rhinovirus. Upper respiratory infections (URIs) can happen any time of the year and are spread through the air and close personal contact. You can reduce your risk of a URI by washing your hands often, avoiding touching your face, disinfecting surfaces, and staying away from people who are sick.

There is no cure for a URI caused by a virus, though URIs caused by bacteria may be treated with antibiotics. The best medicine is lots of rest and plenty of fluids, and most children will start to feel better after 3-14 days. Below are symptoms of common URIs and information on when to seek help.


Colds can occur in children when a virus irritates (inflames) the lining of the nose and throat. Colds can be caused by more than 200 different viruses. But most colds are caused by rhinoviruses.

Common symptoms of a cold:

  • Sore Throat
  • Runny or stuffy Nose
  • Sneezing
  • Low grade fever
  • Body aches
  • Headache
  • Watery eyes

How to treat a cold at home

  • Treat coughing and stuffiness with humidity (a humidifier and/or warm baths)
  • Use saline spray and a bulb syringe for young kids to clear mucus; older kids may be able to use a Neti pot to clear their sinuses.
  • Have your child gargle warm salt water to ease a sore throat.
  • Use OTC medications if approved by your doctor (most medications are only for kids over 4-6 years old).

When to see a doctor:

  • If symptoms last longer than 10 days, your child’s cold may be caused by a bacterial infection. Your doctor may want to prescribe antibiotics.
  • If your child has a barking cough that worsens over time and/or a rattling sound when breathing, they may have croup and require breathing treatment.
  • If your child starts vomiting, complaining of neck pain and stiffness, or light sensitivity, they may have meningitis and require immediate care.
  • If your child is tugging their ears or complaining of ear pain, they may have an ear infection that requires antibiotic treatment.

Call 911 if your child:

  • Has trouble breathing or is gasping or wheezing
  • Skin color changes to grayish blue or is very pale

If you have any questions or concerns please contact us – we’re here to help you and your child feel better!

sore throat symptoms