How to Care for Your Child with
Viral Upper Respiratory Tract Infection (Viral URTI)

This leaflet will provide you with information about Viral URTI (Cold) Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment and Home care advices

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Viral URTI

What is Viral URTI? 

An upper respiratory tract infection (URTI) is an illness caused by an acute infection, which involves the upper respiratory tract, including the ear,  nose, sinuses, tonsils, pharynx, or larynx. 

Most infections are caused by viruses, and in other instances, the cause is bacterial. URTIs can also be fungal or helminthic (caused by Parasitic worms) in origin, but these are less common.                                                      

What are the symptoms of Viral URTI?

Your child may experience the following symptoms:

  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Sneezing 
  • Cough
  • Sore throat 
  • Low fever

In uncomplicated colds, coughing and nasal discharge may persist for 14 days or more even after other symptoms have resolved.    

How is Viral URTI diagnosed?

The doctor will ask few questions about your child’s health and examine your child. Blood test or swabs (Nose or Throat) are rarely required                                        

How is Viral URTI treated? 

  • Treatment is symptomatic and to control fever if causing distress
  • Antibiotic is rarely needed as Most of URTI are viral and self-limiting
  • Do not give any cough or cold medicines to children younger than 12 years. These medicines can cause serious side effects
  • Do not give antihistamines (or any store brand) to a child of any age. Antihistamines do not help kids with colds feel better
  • If your doctor advises to give medicine for fever you can give 
    • Paracetamol (any brand) or Ibuprofen (any brand)   
    • Follow the instruction on the medicine package for the correct dose for your child 
    • Do not give your child Aspirin as this can cause serious complications 

Home care advice  

To prevent sever Viral URTI: 

  • Give your child plenty of liquids. Warm liquids can be soothing.
  • To help with a runny or stuffy nose: 
    • Run a cool-mist humidifier. Clean after each use
    • For babies: Put a few drops of saline (saltwater) into the nose, then gently suction the mucus out with a bulb syringe
    • For older kids: Give 2 sprays of saline nose spray 3 times a day for 4 days
  • If the skin under your child's nose is sore, put petroleum jelly on it
  • For children older than 12 months, you can give 1–2 teaspoons of honey at night to help with coughing
  • Do not give honey if your child is younger than 12 months
  • For children older than 6 years, try a hard candy or throat lozenge to help ease throat pain and coughing

To help prevent the spread of viruses, all family members should: 

  • Wash hands properly using soap and water for at least 20 seconds, rinse and dry thoroughly. This is especially important after coughing or sneezing, and before eating or preparing food
  • If soap and water are not available, you can use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol 
  • Clean tabletops, doorknobs and other hard surfaces with a cleaner that kills viruses

When should I seek medical advice? 

Seek medical advice if your child: 

  • Has fever that lasts for more than 3–4 days
  • Does not want to drink fluids
  • Appears dehydrated with dry and sticky mouth, sunken eyes, has no tears when crying
  • Has ear pain or fluid coming out of the ear
  • Has red eyes or yellow fluid coming from the eyes
  • Suffers from runny or stuffy nose for 2 weeks or longer
  • Suffers from bad cough or chest pain
  • Looks sicker, less energetic

Go to the Emergency Department if your child: 

  • Has trouble breathing
  • Is breathing fast
  • Looks blue around the lips