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Upper respiratory infections in children

GEHA | October 4, 2021

Most URIs are caused by viruses and require no antibiotic treatment.

An upper respiratory infection, or URI, is a condition that affects your upper air passages. It is an infection caused by a virus that enters your body through your nose or mouth.

Children tend to catch more colds because their immune systems are still developing. They are also less likely to wipe their noses and wash their hands after sneezing or coughing.

The most common symptoms of a viral URI are:

  • A lot of mucus
  • Sore throat
  • Sneezing
  • Mild fever
  • Watery eyes
  • Nasal congestion
  • Coughing
  • A runny nose
  • Aches

The common cold is the most frequent URI. Laryngitis is the inflammation of your larynx, or voice box. This URI exhibits in the loss of your voice, sore throat and persistent cough. Sinusitis is also a URI. The tissue lining in your sinuses is inflamed making it hard to breathe properly. These symptoms are nasal congestion, pressure on your face or around your eyes, fever, and yellow or green mucus.

Mild URIs, like the common cold, can usually go away without treatment. However, getting the right diagnosis is important because symptoms can resemble those of other conditions, such as COVID-19, flu, pneumonia, asthma and seasonal allergies.

Since most URIs are caused by viruses, they require no antibiotic treatment. Antibiotics don’t work on viruses. In fact, taking an antibiotic unnecessarily, may lower how effective the antibiotic might be later, when it is needed. While it may not be possible to shorten the length of your child’s illness, but here are ways to make your child more comfortable.

Home treatment

  • Get plenty of rest
  • Use a humidifier or cool mist vaporizer
  • Drink plenty of clear liquids, such as water or juice
  • Use saline drops to ease congestion
  • Consider over-the-counter pain relievers, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen; be sure to check with your doctor for proper dosage amounts
“Bronchitis.”, Mayo Clinic, 15 January, 2020.
“What is a Viral URI?”, WebMD LLC, 2020. (medically reviewed on March 1, 2024)
“Chest Cold (Acute Bronchitis).”, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 July, 2021.