Understanding URTIs in Children

Upper respiratory tract infections (URTIs) are the bane of every parent’s existence. These seemingly endless bouts of coughs, sneezes, and sniffles plague children, especially during the colder months. But fear not! This article will equip you with the knowledge to navigate the world of URTIs in children, from understanding their causes and symptoms to managing them effectively.


The culprits behind URTIs are microscopic villains known as viruses and, to a lesser extent, bacteria. These invaders infiltrate the nose, throat, and sinuses, causing inflammation and triggering the body’s immune response.

Common culprits:

  • Rhinoviruses: Responsible for the dreaded “common cold”
  • Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV): Causes croup and bronchiolitis, often in younger children
  • Parainfluenza viruses: Linked to laryngitis and croup
  • Influenza virus: Causes the flu, characterized by high fever and body aches


While symptoms may vary depending on the specific virus or bacteria involved, some common telltale signs of a URTI in children include:

  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Sneezing
  • Sore throat
  • Cough
  • Mild fever
  • Headache
  • Muscle aches
  • Fatigue


Most URTIs, thankfully, are self-limiting and resolve within a few days to a week. The focus of treatment is on managing symptoms and keeping your child comfortable:

  • Plenty of rest: Allow your child to sleep and recover.
  • Hydration: Encourage fluids to thin mucus and prevent dehydration.
  • Humidifier: Moist air can soothe a sore throat and cough.
  • Pain relievers: Over-the-counter medications like acetaminophen or ibuprofen can help manage fever and aches. Note: Always consult your doctor before administering any medication to your child.
  • Home remedies: Warm salt water gargles, honey for coughs (not for children under 1 year old), and steamy showers can offer some relief.

When to seek medical attention:

While most URTIs are manageable at home, some situations warrant a trip to the doctor. Seek medical advice if your child:

  • Has a fever exceeding 100.4°F (38°C) for more than 3 days
  • Has difficulty breathing or fast breathing
  • Has severe ear pain
  • Has swollen glands in the neck
  • Has a barking cough or croupy symptoms
  • Has symptoms that worsen or don’t improve after a week
  • If the child is not drinking or eating well.


The best way to combat URTIs is by practicing good hygiene:

  • Frequent handwashing with soap and water
  • Coughing and sneezing into elbows or tissues
  • Avoiding close contact with sick individuals
  • Getting vaccinated against influenza
  • Encourage healthy habits: Adequate sleep, a balanced diet, and regular exercise can boost your child’s immune system.


URTIs are a normal part of childhood. By understanding their causes, symptoms, and treatment options, you can help your child navigate these sniffly episodes and get back to feeling their best in no time. And most importantly, don’t forget the TLC – a warm cuddle, a favorite story, and a comforting bowl of soup can go a long way in making even the nastiest URTI feel a little better.

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© 2023 The Pediatric Center Children Hospital

2a Sulaimon Abdullahi Street, Agungi, Lekki, Lagos

Road 2, House 20, Greenland Estate, Olokonla, Ajah-Sangotedo, Lagos


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