What’s An Upper Respiratory Tract Infection?

Upper respiratory tract infection is one of the most common viral infections in children. Upper respiratory infection is always referred to as common cold. However, influenza is also one of the common upper respiratory tract infections.


Colds in kids

Kids get about eight colds per year. It is the top reason to miss school and to visit doctor. Most of the colds are caused by rhinoviruses. Rhinoviruses are found in invisible droplets in the atmosphere and in the things we touch. The viruses get into the protective lining of throat and nose. This sets off an immunity reaction in the child’s body causing symptoms like headache, sore throat and trouble in breathing.

What are the common symptoms of cold?

  • Stuffy or running nose
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Mild fever
  • Loss of appetite
  • Tiredness
  • Headache

How do colds spread?

Direct contact: A child with cold has virus in his or her nose, hands, mouth and eyes. Colds spread through direct contact like holding hands, kissing or touching an infected child.

Indirect contact: Toys, clothes, towels and utensils used by the infected child carry the virus. Even things like door knobs touched by the infected children carry the virus. The virus from these things spread to a healthy child when they touch these objects.

Through air: Virus spreads through air when the infected child sneezes or coughs. The virus enters the air and may enter another child’s nose or mouth.

How are colds treated?

Most of the colds will go away on their own without any treatment. Antibiotics do not work for colds as they are caused by virus and not bacteria. Medicines will not treat cold but will give relief from symptoms of cold. Home remedies like saline drops and nasal aspirators help in clearing stuffy nose. Warm fluids keep your child hydrated. If you are going for over the counter acetaminophen or paracetamol make sure you don’t give an overdose.

When to visit the doctor ?

  1. Is your baby under 3 months of age? If so, you should visit your doctor if your baby has trouble in breathing and if your child is not eating and if your child has symptoms like vomiting and high fever.
  2. If your child is older, you should take your child to the doctor if
  • Your child’s lips are blue
  • Your child’s breathing is rapid
  • If your child is very sleepy than usual
  • If the mucus from the nose is yellow or green in color
  • If your child is fussy and does not play
  • If the child’s cough is very severe


Although both flu and colds are upper respiratory tract infections, they are caused by different viruses. Most of the symptoms of cold and influenza are the same except for a few differences.

The symptoms of flu are generally worse than cold.

  • The onset of flu is abrupt.
  • Colds are rarely accompanied with fever. Flu is always accompanied with fever.
  • Body aches are severe in flu.
  • Stuffy nose, sneezing and sore throat are common for colds. These symptoms may or may not be seen in flu.
  • Chills are common in flu.

How does flu spread?

Like colds, it also spreads through direct or indirect contact and through air.


Children with flu can be treated at home if the symptoms are not very severe. Children should take rest. They should not be sent to school until the symptoms go off completely. Lot of fluids should be given to prevent dehydration.
You should call your doctor if your child is below one year old, if your child has week immunity, if your child has asthma or diabetes, if your child has symptoms like vomiting, trouble in breathing, dehydration, blood in sputum and bad cough and if your child has seizures.

Easy-to-do remedies for Baby’s Cold

There is no cure for the common cold. There are a variety of viruses that cause the common cold and they are always changing. This makes finding a cure nearly impossible. There are, however, ways to ease the symptoms of a cold.

Many people turn first to their doctors demanding antibiotics. Antibiotics do not work on viral infections (a cold is an upper respiratory tract infection) so doctors will not prescribe them for a cold.
Next, people often turn to over-the-counter remedies found at their local pharmacy. While many of these can be effective they often carry a level of risk should they be misused or over-used.
The third option people look to are home remedies. When your baby has a cold, reverse the order in which you seek relief for your baby. Start with simple, safe, effective home remedies. Use over-the-counter medications sparingly, if at all. If all else fails and your baby is still miserable, then call your doctor.

Home remedies to try as soon as your baby gets a cold.

Home remedies are effective, safe and inexpensive. Take note of these remedies and keep the supplies for them in your home so that you are prepared as soon as you suspect your baby is getting a cold. Take note of the age restrictions (if any). If you are in doubt, call your doctor for advice before trying any of these remedies.

For all babies and children

Saline drops can be used in a baby’s nose to keep it moist and the passages open.

Nasal aspirators are a highly effective way to keeping a baby’s nasal passages clear so your baby can eat and breathe more easily during his cold.

Get over your fear of “yuckiness.”

You’ve been changing diapers so you know what yuckiness is. When you experience your baby’s first cold you, along with many other parents, might experience a new sensation of yuckiness when confronted with the concept of having to unstuff your child’s nose. That’s right – not a one of us was born knowing how to blow our noses. Using a nasal aspirator can be disconcerting at first but, when you see the relief it gives your baby, you will get past the less glamorous details. A bulb aspirator is likely what you’re most familiar with. While they work, they are less than gentle and hard to control. Look into using a manual nasal aspirator. They are more effective, easier to use and much more baby friendly. Whatever your choice, this is one of your best weapons against a stuffy baby nose!

Tips and Tricks for manual nasal aspirator

  • It’s safe to let your baby play with the tube and get familiar with it before you use it.

  • You can also try blowing through the aspirator to make a whistle sound that babies like.

  • With older babies, use the aspirator on his arm or stomach to let him see what it does before you try using it in his nose.

  • Use the aspirator before each feeding and again before bedtime for best results.

  • Using the aspirator along with saline nasal drops increase its efficiency.

Steam is your friend.

Fill a large pot or bowl with boiling water. Sit quietly with your baby under a towel or blanket and inhale the steam, preferably with a drop or two of eucalyptus oil included, and breathe the steam for 15-20 minutes. The steam opens up sinuses and nasal passages. The warmth relaxes you and the baby. Skin-to-skin contact helps sick babies regulate their temperatures.

Skin-to-skin contact helps sick babies regulate their temperatures.
Elevate your baby’s bed.

Use folded towels under the mattress to allow your baby to sleep with his head and chest in a slightly elevated position. He will breathe easier and sleep longer.


Rest is the best cure for a cold. If that means having your baby sleep with you in your bed or you sleeping with your baby in a guest room or on the couch, by all means do it. Not only does your baby need the rest, you do too!

For babies 0-6 months

Breastfeed. The best thing you can do for very young babies is to breastfeed them. Allow them to nurse as often as they like. Experiment with nursing with baby in an upright position to help them breathe well. Use the nasal aspirator with saline before each feed. This will help him to feed better.

Skin to skin. Babies who rest and sleep skin to skin with their mothers are better able to regulate their body temperatures

Use a garlic and ajwain pouch. On a tawa/skillet dry roast a tablespoon of ajwain and two cloves of garlic. Tie them up in a piece of clean muslin or cheesecloth and place the pouch in your baby’s crib (where he cannot reach it). The scents will help keep his nose and sinuses open.

Change your diet. Breastfeeding moms can add/increase tumeric, onion and garlic in their diets. Young babies are not ready to eat these things themselves but will gain benefits through their mother’s milk if she eats them.

For babies 6-12 months (in addition to all of the above)

Encourage your baby to eat warm soup. Just like steam, warm liquids keep Passages open and make breathing easier

Apply a baby-safe rub . Apply a essential oil based natural Baby Rub to the soles of your child’s feet and cover them with cotton socks before bedtime. It reduces coughing and the scent eases breathing.

Use the garlic and ajwain pouch as a rub. Make the pouch as directed above. When the pouch is pleasantly warm to the touch, rub it on your baby’s chest and back for even more relief.

Use nilgiri/eucalyptus oil. Soak a cotton ball with the oil and place in your baby’s Bedroom (out of reach). The scent can help ease breathing.

Even if you are a first-time parent, you know your baby better than anyone else. Give these home remedies a try and see which ones work for your baby and which ones are not as effective. Keep the ones that work. If your baby’s symptoms do not improve or worsen after 7-10 days, call your pediatrician to rule out a sinus or ear infection.

If your baby’s symptoms do not improve or worsen after 7-10 days, call your pediatrician to rule out a sinus or ear infection.

Further reading 

Is it safe to use nasal drops ?