Cold (Upper Respiratory Infection), 6 Years and Older Care Instructions

Cold (Upper Respiratory Infection), 6 Years and Older: After Your Child's Visit

Your Care Instructions

An upper respiratory infection, also called a URI, is an infection of the nose, sinuses, or throat. URIs are spread by coughs, sneezes, and direct contact. The common cold is the most frequent kind of URI. The flu and sinus infections are other kinds of URIs.

Almost all URIs are caused by viruses, so antibiotics won't cure them. But you can do things at home to help your child get better. With most URIs, your child should feel better in 4 to 10 days.

Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.

How can you care for your child at home?

  • Give your child acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) for fever, pain, or fussiness. Read and follow all instructions on the label. Do not give aspirin to anyone younger than 20. It has been linked to Reye syndrome, a serious illness.
  • Be careful with cough and cold medicines. They may not be safe for young children, so check the label first. If you do give these medicines to a child, always follow the directions about how much to give based on the child's age and weight.
  • Be careful when giving your child over-the-counter cold or flu medicines and Tylenol at the same time. Many of these medicines have acetaminophen, which is Tylenol. Read the labels to make sure that you are not giving your child more than the recommended dose. Too much acetaminophen (Tylenol) can be harmful.
  • Make sure your child rests. Keep your child at home if he or she has a fever.
  • Place a humidifier by your child's bed or close to your child. This may make it easier for your child to breathe. Follow the directions for cleaning the machine.
  • Keep your child away from smoke. Do not smoke or let anyone else smoke around your child or in your house.
  • Wash your hands and your child's hands regularly so that you don't spread the disease.
  • If the doctor prescribed antibiotics for your child, give them as directed. Do not stop using them just because your child feels better. Your child needs to take the full course of antibiotics.
  • Give your child lots of fluids, enough so that the urine is light yellow or clear like water. This is very important if your child is vomiting or has diarrhea. Give your child sips of water or drinks such as Pedialyte or Infalyte. These drinks contain a mix of salt, sugar, and minerals. You can buy them at drugstores or grocery stores. Give these drinks as long as your child is throwing up or has diarrhea. Do not use them as the only source of liquids or food for more than 12 to 24 hours.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think your child may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • Your child has severe trouble breathing. Symptoms may include:
    • Using the belly muscles to breathe.
    • The chest sinking in or the nostrils flaring when your child struggles to breathe.

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your child has new or worse trouble breathing.
  • Your child has a new or higher fever.
  • Your child seems to be getting much sicker.
  • Your child has a new rash.

Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • Your child is coughing more deeply or more often, especially if you notice more mucus or a change in the color of the mucus.
  • Your child has a new symptom, such as a sore throat, an earache, or sinus pain.
  • Your child is not getting better as expected.

Care instructions adapted under license by Slm. This care instruction is for use with your licensed healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.