An upper respiratory infection, also called a URI, is an infection of the nose, sinuses, or throat. URIs are spread by coughs, sneezes, and direct contact. The common cold is the most frequent kind of URI. The flu and sinus infections are other kinds of URIs.
Almost all URIs are caused by viruses, so antibiotics won't cure them. But you can do things at home to help your child get better. With most URIs, your child should feel better in 4 to 10 days.
Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.
How can you care for your child at home?
- Ask your doctor if you can give your child acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin). Do not use ibuprofen if your child is less than 6 months old unless the doctor gave you instructions to use it. Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
- Do not give aspirin to anyone younger than 20. It has been linked to Reye syndrome, a serious illness.
- If your child has problems breathing because of a stuffy nose, put a few saline (saltwater) nasal drops in one nostril. Using a soft rubber suction bulb, squeeze air out of the bulb, and gently place the tip of the bulb inside the baby's nose. Relax your hand to suck the mucus from the nose. Repeat in the other nostril.
- Place a cool-mist humidifier by your child's bed or close to your child. This may make it easier for your child to breathe. Follow the directions for cleaning the machine.
- Keep your child away from smoke. Do not smoke or let anyone else smoke around your child or in your house.
- Wash your hands and your child's hands regularly so that you don't spread the disease.
When should you call for help?
Call 911 anytime you think your child may need emergency care. For example, call if:
- Your child seems very sick or is hard to wake up.
- Your child has severe trouble breathing. Symptoms may include:
- Using the belly muscles to breathe.
- The chest sinking in or the nostrils flaring when your child struggles to breathe.
Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:
- Your child has new or increased shortness of breath.
- Your child has a new or higher fever.
- Your child seems to be getting sicker.
- Your child has coughing spells and can't stop.
Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:
- Your child does not get better as expected.
Where can you learn more?
Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd
Enter G976 in the search box to learn more about "Upper Respiratory Infection (Cold) in Children 3 Months to 1 Year: Care Instructions".
Current as of: October 31, 2022
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:John Pope MD - Pediatrics & Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine