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    Care tips for upper respiratory infections in children

a young Asian girl who might be sick with a cold or the flu, is coughing into her elbow

ROCHESTER, Minn. ― Upper respiratory infections are a common occurrence this time of year. Seasonal cases of influenza, strep throat and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) have increased over the past few weeks, especially among children. At the same time, COVID-19 remains active in the community.

"Most children with upper respiratory infections will have a mild illness, including cold-like symptoms, fever and cough, that can be managed at home," says Marcie Billings, M.D., pediatrician and division chair of Community Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine at Mayo Clinic in Rochester. "While differences exist among all viruses, the recommendations for care at home are the same — have your child rest, keep them well hydrated and use fever-reducing medications when needed for children 3 months of age or older. This is also a time to make sure children are up to date with their vaccinations and schedule those shots when they are well."

For children at high risk for complications from influenza or other viruses, or parents and guardians who feel their child should be seen, contact your primary care team to determine if an outpatient visit is needed, says Dr. Billings.

"Testing for illnesses like RSV is not always needed or recommended, as it will not change the course of care for managing symptoms at home," she says. "That's why we don't recommend scheduling an appointment or going to the Emergency Department just to get a test. Contact your primary care office to determine if your child should be seen. If so, the need for testing can be discussed during that visit."

Mayo Clinic Primary Care in Southeast Minnesota expands appointments

Mayo Clinic Primary Care is expanding appointment availability in Rochester and the surrounding area for children with acute care needs on nights and weekends. Appointments are available during the following hours for clinics in:

Albert Lea, Austin

  • Primary Care: 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., Monday through Friday; and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.
  • Express Care: 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., Monday through Friday; and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

Cannon Falls, Lake City and Red Wing

  • Primary Care: 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., Monday through Friday; and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.
  • Express Care: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday; and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.


  • Primary Care and Express Care: 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., Monday through Saturday; and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday.

Rochester and Kasson:

  • Primary Care (Adult patients): 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday; 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Saturday.
  • Primary Care (Pediatric patients): 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday; 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Saturday; and 12 to 4 p.m. on Sunday (evening and weekend hours at Baldwin Building only).
  • Express Care: 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday; and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

The Rochester and Kasson appointment line will open 7 a.m. on Saturday and 11 a.m. on Sunday for same-day appointments. Expanded hours are not available Wednesday, Nov. 23, or on Mayo Clinic official holidays.

"Our goal is to support families through their child’s illness and give them an option, versus going to the Emergency Department, which should only be done in a true emergency," says Dr. Billings.

Mayo Clinic Primary Care offers the following resources to help patients manage upper respiratory infections:

  • Nurse triage line — Mayo Clinic offers a team of expert and caring registered nurses. The team uses the medical information backed by the expertise of Mayo Clinic to help answer patients' questions, including questions on testing.
  • Symptom checker — Mayo Clinic offers an online symptom checker to help families review their symptoms and potential treatment options.
  • COVID-19 testing — Mayo Clinic recommends the use of home antigen testing for COVID-19 if needed and if your child is 2 or older. Patients are encouraged to test at home when symptomatic, and to seek additional care or testing if they remain symptomatic yet test negative for COVID-19.
  • Influenza testing — Patients who are at increased risk of flu-related complications may be considered for influenza testing.
  • RSV testing — An RSV test may be considered in patients less than 6 months old and those at higher risk for complications who are seen for medical care. Testing is not recommended for patients that can be treated symptomatically at home.

Influenza can worsen chronic health problems, such as asthma and congestive heart failure. Those at an increased risk of influenza-related complications include:

  • Younger than 12 months old
  • Pregnant or have given birth in the past two weeks
  • Younger than 19 and are receiving long-term aspirin therapy
  • Have certain chronic medical conditions, including lung diseases such as asthma, an airway abnormality, heart disease, diabetes, neurological or neurodevelopmental disease, metabolic disorders, and kidney, liver or blood diseases
  • Have a weakened immune system due to factors such as long-term use of steroids or other immunosuppressants, HIV, organ transplant, blood cancer, or cancer being treated with chemotherapy

"As we enter this season and the upcoming holidays, we will see an increase in colds, flu and COVID-19 infections," says Dr. Billings. "In many cases, kids can be safely cared for at home. Contact your primary care team if you have concerns and keep your child at home until symptoms improve. If your child tests positive for COVID-19, follow CDC isolation guidelines."


About Mayo Clinic
Mayo Clinic is a nonprofit organization committed to innovation in clinical practice, education and research, and providing compassion, expertise and answers to everyone who needs healing. Visit the Mayo Clinic News Network for additional Mayo Clinic news.

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