Upper Respiratory Infection, Child

Your child has an upper respiratory infection or cold. Colds are caused by viruses and are not helped by giving antibiotics. Usually there is a mild fever for 3 to 4 days. Congestion and cough may be present for as long as 1 to 2 weeks. Colds are contagious. Do not send your child to school until the fever is gone.

Treatment includes making your child more comfortable. For nasal congestion, use a cool mist vaporizer. Use saline nose drops frequently to keep the nose open from secretions. It works better than suctioning with the bulb syringe, which can cause minor bruising inside the child's nose. Occasionally you may have to use bulb suctioning, but it is strongly believed that saline rinsing of the nostrils is more effective in keeping the nose open. This is especially important for the infant who needs an open nose to be able to suck with a closed mouth. Decongestants and cough medicine may be used in older children as directed.

Colds may lead to more serious problems such as ear or sinus infection or pneumonia.


  • Your child complains of earache.

  • Your child develops a foul-smelling, thick nasal discharge.

  • Your child develops increased breathing difficulty, or becomes exhausted.

  • Your child has persistent vomiting.

  • Your child has an oral temperature above 102° F (38.9° C).

  • Your baby is older than 3 months with a rectal temperature of 100.5° F (38.1° C) or higher for more than 1 day.