UPPER respiratory tracts infections (URTI) refer to infection of the upper airways which include the nose cavity, mouth, throat and voice box. URTIs are usually caused by viruses. These are extremely common in children as they have not yet built up immunity to the many viruses. The common viruses are influenza A and influenza B. A person can become ill from breathing in tiny droplets of fluid containing the virus when an infected person sneezes or coughs, or it can spread by touching an object on which the virus is present. Common symptoms are: sore throat, cough, hoarse voice, nasal congestion, sneezing and fever. There is usually no need for any treatment as children usually get better on their own.There are specific antiviral agents available and antibiotics are usually not needed. The flu vaccine is available yearly and this prevents serious complications.Complications of URTI are a sinus infection, ear infection and pneumonia. Seek medical attention if the child’s fever is persistent, there is difficulty breathing, ear pain, a stuffy nose or head pain, a cough that won’t go away, or if the child seems to be getting worse.For this and other childhood conditions, contact Dr Rashinta Moodley, specialist paediatrician and paediatric nephrologist, at 031 537 4125 or 031 492 2111.