Q&A: What is an upper respiratory infection?
My 7-month-old was just diagnosed with an upper respiratory infection. She sounds just awful! Can you explain what that means, and what I can do to treat my baby and make her more comfortable?
‘Tis the season for germs! An upper respiratory infection (URI) often begins as a viral infection that affects the throat, nose, sinuses—generally anything above the lungs. A URI can sometimes lead to an infection of the lower portion of the respiratory system—the lungs. When winter hits, it seems everywhere you turn someone is sneezing or coughing. It’s enough to make you want to keep your baby at home. All the time spent inside with doors and windows closed creates an optimal environment for viruses to flourish and spread. Sometimes, no matter how hard we try to keep our little ones (and ourselves!) healthy, an unwelcome cold can rear its ugly head.
There are plenty of comfort measures you can implement to help your daughter feel better. Most parents are ready to rush to the doctor at the sign of the first sniffle. Many pediatricians will review with you what symptoms would warrant a phone call or a trip to the office. Viruses cannot be treated with antibiotics. Sometimes, after your child has had a viral infection for a long period of time, it can turn into something that may need treating with antibiotics: bronchitis (that lingers), sinus infection, ear infection, or pneumonia.
Common URI Symptoms:
- Stuffy nose
- Sore throat (can be caused by postnasal drip)
- Use a steam vaporizer or even sit in a steamy bathroom to loosen mucous (clean vaporizer according to directions to avoid buildup of bacteria).
- Increase oral fluids to promote hydration and to help thin secretions.
- Use a bulb syringe to help clear your little one’s nose.
- Use saline drops to help loosen crusty mucous right before using the bulb syringe.
- Your pediatrician may recommend acetaminophen if there is a fever present.
(Check out these other
medicine-free ideas for keeping Baby comfortable when sick.)
Call your doctor right away if you notice any of these symptoms:
- Your baby has difficulty breathing.
- Cough sounds like croup (a barking sound).
- Fever is persistent or high. (Check with your own pediatrician for guidelines, but keep in mind: above 100.4 is what most pediatricians would consider a fever. When your baby has a viral infection she may run a fever over the course of several days. If it reaches 103, let your doctor know. If your baby’s fever gets too high, she runs the risk of having what is called a febrile seizure. Your pediatrician may recommend using acetaminophen to keep your baby’s fever from getting too high.)
- Your baby is acting lethargic.
- Your baby is tugging or pulling on her ear.
- Your baby is vomiting or has diarrhea.
URI Prevention Tips:
- Frequent hand washing.
- Keep your baby away from anyone who has a cold.
- No sharing of utensils or cups.
- Teach older siblings to cover mouth and nose when sneezing or coughing.
- Support the immune system by eating well and getting lots of rest.
- If you are breastfeeding, keep it up to help boost her immune system