Upper Respiratory Infection
(You've got a cold)
An upper respiratory infection, otherwise known as the common cold, is the most common illness your child will have. Normal, healthy children get about eight to ten colds per year during their first two years, even more if they are in daycare or if they live with school aged children!
Upper respiratory infections are caused by viruses, teeny infectious organisms that are smaller than bacteria. The viruses are spread from person to person through respiratory secretions: coughing, sneezing, or touching the contaminated hand of another child.
Symptoms of an upper respiratory infection include runny nose (usually clear at first, then becoming thick and colored), sneeze, cough, sore throat, fever, decreased appetite or irritability. Most upper respiratory infections gradually improve over seven to ten days.
Children usually do not need to see a doctor for an upper respiratory infection. One exception is the very young infant; babies less than three months should be examined to make sure they are not progressing to more serious conditions like bronchiolitis or pneumonia. Other reasons to make an office appointment include the following:
•Runny nose or cough persisting longer than fourteen days •Fever persisting longer than five days •Increased work of breathing •Excessive sleepiness or irritability
Unfortunately, there is no medicine to cure the common cold. Since upper respiratory infections are caused by viruses, antibiotics have no effect. Over-the-counter (click to link to OTC page) cough and cold medications are rarely effective in children and are unsafe for children younger than six. Therefore, we generally discourage the use of any over-the-counter medications other than acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Occasionally, we might suggest a specific over-the-counter medication for older children or adolescents. Remember that these medications merely relieve the symptoms of a cold; they will not help the cold go away any faster.
Other remedies that sometimes help alleviate the symptoms of an upper respiratory infection include nasal suction (for babies), saline nose drops, a cool mist humidifier and sleeping with the head elevated. It is also important that your child get more fluids and more rest than usual when recovering from an upper respiratory infection.
The best defense against the common cold is prevention by frequent hand washing. If your baby is less than three months old, do your best to keep her away from children who have a cough or runny nose.
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Silver Spring Pediatrics
Drs. DeConcini, Schooler, Zang, Wang, Yee & Marcus