An upper respiratory infection or cold is caused by a virus that infects the mucous membranes lining the nose, sinuses, and throat.

There are hundreds of viruses that cause the common cold.

Symptoms include:

  • Runny nose
  • Congestion
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Headache
  • Watery eyes
  • Red eyes
  • Fever


We recommend the following treatment if your child gets a cold:

  • Give plenty of clear liquids
  • Use a cool mist humidifier at night
  • Use saline drops to help thin out the mucus
  • Use a bulb suction in infants to help clear the mucus

Antibiotics are not effective against cold viruses.  It is clear that using antibiotics when they are not needed is largely responsible for bacterial resistance.  However, 10 % of children will develop a secondary bacterial infection from a cold.  Those children will benefit from antibiotics.

Call the office or make an appointment online if:

  • Your child is coughing so hard that he vomits
  • Your child has a cough that is keeping her up at night
  • Your child has cough or congestion that lasts longer than 10 days
  • Your child is having difficulty breathing
  • Your child is complaining of ear pain
  • Your child has signs of dehydration.
  • Your child develops fever several days into a cold.

Over the counter cough and cold medications are not routinely recommended

We do not recommend products that combine acetaminophen or ibuprofen with cold medication.

 Return to the Childhood Illness Guide.