Upper respiratory infection – the most common viral illness of childhood
Upper Respiratory Infections can involve the nose, mouth, sinuses, or throat. These are usually viral infections and are very common in babies and children. Most children have 6-8 colds a year and they often last 7-10 days. For some kids, especially those in daycare it seems that they always have a cold. Occasionally colds will lead to an ear infection or sinus infection, but the large majority of colds are self limited and will go away on their own. We can help a bit with comfort measures, but there is nothing other than time that will make the cold disappear.
- Stuffy or runny nose
- Mouth breathing
- Sore throat, scratchy throat, hoarse voice
- Whiny, irritable, decreased appetite and activity
- Cough, especially when lying down
- Fever, low grade or higher
What You Can Do:
- Saline nose drops— Can use OTC drops or make your own. Put a few drops in each nostril and after a minute or two gently suck the nose with a nasal aspirator. This can be irritating, so it is not necessary if your baby is sleeping and eating well.
- Cool mist humidifier
- Elevate the head of the bed
- Keep your child well hydrated
- Tylenol or Motrin (over 6 months) can be used for comfort or fever. See our dosing guide.
- Good hand washing
- Don’t share drinking cups, utensils, and towels
What is safe?
- Tylenol and Motrin (over 6 months). See our dosing guide.
- Honey before bed has been shown to help some coughs. The dose is ½ teaspoon for 1 year—5 years, 1 teaspoon for 6-11 years, and 2 teaspoons for over age 12. Honey should not be used under age 1 year.
- Benadryl is an antihistamine safe for children over age 1year. It may cause drowsiness and a few kids will get hyper, but it is a good medicine for itching and allergic reactions. It sometimes will help with a runny nose and drainage. It can be given every 6 hours and the liquid is dosed the same as Tylenol—if your child by weight gets 1 teaspoon of Tylenol the Benadryl dose is also 1 teaspoon. The generic name for Benadryl is diphenhydramine.
- Over age 2 years : Vicks VapoRub is approved for this age group, but there is no medical evidence that it helps the symptoms in all patients.
- Over age 4 years: Non combination ingredient over the counter medicines may not help, but are safe to try if you follow the dosing directions on the bottle very carefully.
WHEN TO CALL
Call immediately if:
- Your child has trouble breathing, like pulling in between the ribs, flaring at the nose or breathing fast
- Your child is fussy or inconsolable despite Tylenol or Motrin
- Your child shows signs of dehydration
- Your child is less than 3 months old and has a rectal temperature >100.4
Call during routine hours if:
- Your child’s cold lasts longer than 10-14 days
- Your child develops ear pain or is pulling on the ear
- Fever lasts more than 3-4 days
- Your child remains fussy despite Tylenol or Motrin
- A cough develops during the day and night that lasts >3-4 days
- You hear wheezing or have other concerns