Upper Respiratory Infections

Also called the common cold or a viral URI, these infections involve the nose, sinuses, throat and upper airway. Colds are among the most common illnesses we all suffer from and are especially common among young children. Despite the name, colds are not caused by cold weather but do occur more often during the fall and winter months partly because we all spend more time indoors. When people are in close contact, the viruses that cause colds are easily spread by coughing, sneezing and contaminated hands and objects. Infants and toddlers in daycare catch many colds a year – often as many as 6-8, mostly during the colder months.

When the cold virus enters our respiratory tract, it causes inflammation and these symptoms:

  • Increased nasal mucous causing a runny nose and nasal congestion – the color can be clear or thick yellowish-green
  • Swelling of the lining of the nostrils causing congestion and obstructed nasal breathing
  • Sore throat
  • Cough
  • Fever for 2-3 days especially in infants and toddlers

Upper Respiratory Infections

Luckily, our natural immune systems are well suited to fighting off these infections and develop a memory that helps protect us from colds as we grow older. Colds caused by viruses do not need special treatment or antibiotics and will improve on their own over 7-10 days. If a fever is present, it should usually resolve in 3 days with a common cold. One of our main jobs as your family’s pediatric providers is to diagnosis infections which require special treatment or antibiotics versus those that only require lots of TLC from you. When a cold does not follow the normal pattern of the above symptoms which improve slowly over 7-10 days, please make an appointment to see us.

Prescribing an antibiotic your child does not need can have the following negative outcomes:

  • Increased, unnecessary expense to you
  • Side-effects from the antibiotic such as upset stomach and diarrhea
  • Serious allergic reaction to the antibiotic can rarely occur
  • Exposing bacteria to unnecessary antibiotics increases their resistance possibly making it harder to treat your child in the future

Please also call for an appointment in the following situations:

  • Symptoms are worsening or not improving after 7 days
  • Shortness of breath or respiratory difficulty
  • If your child has asthma or uses inhalers and has increasing cough
  • Fever for longer than 3 days (call immediately for fever in an infant under 2 months)
  • Ear pain in a child under age 2 or for more than 2 days in an older child
  • Your child is acting more ill than you feel is normal for a cold

Our nurses and doctors can always offer advice over the phone to help your child feel more comfortable until this common illness runs its course.

For more information about viral upper respiratory infections, when antibiotics are appropriate and the concern for increasing antibiotic resistant, please see these links:

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PAMPA is a pediatric medical practice in north Atlanta, Georgia consisting of ten pediatricians, four nurses,
and three locations in Roswell, Woodstock,and Marietta. area.
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