Respiratory and Seasonal Illnesses
Fall, winter and spring bring colds, flu, RSV, strep and other respiratory illnesses. Here you'll find information on those seen most often in kids, including the latest variants of COVID-19. You'll also find helpful information on symptoms, care and prevention.
Respiratory symptoms can sometimes look the same. When your child isn't feeling well, you want to help them find relief, fast! Learn about the common symptoms for cold, flu, and other respiratory illnesses and where to go for treatment.
Respiratory syncytial (sin-SISH-ul) virus (RSV) is a major cause of respiratory illness in children. The virus usually causes a common cold. But sometimes it infects the lungs and breathing passages and can cause breathing problems in infants and young children. RSV infections are most common from fall through spring.
Sometimes RSV can lead to bronchiolitis or pneumonia, especially in premature babies; infants younger than 1 year old; and kids with diseases that affect the lungs, heart, or immune system (such as asthma).
Helpful RSV resources
Infographic What is RSV?
The flu is an infection of the respiratory tract (nose, throat, and lungs). It's caused by a virus that spreads easily from person to person. Flu viruses usually cause the most illness during the colder months of the year. In the United States, flu season is from October to May.
Kids who get the flu can develop pneumonia or get even sicker from other kinds of infections (like bacterial infections). If this happens, many will need medical care in the hospital. So it's important for them not to be near anyone who has the flu or flu-like symptoms.
Helpful flu resources
Strep throat is an infection caused by a type of bacteria called group A strep (GAS). These bacteria are the most common cause of bacterial sore throat in children and teens. While strep throat can happen any time of year, it is most common during late fall and early spring.
Strep throat is very contagious. Anybody can get it, but most cases are in school-age kids and teens ages 5 to 15. Infections are common during the school year, with peaks in winter and early spring, when big groups of kids and teens are in close contact.
Helpful strep throat resources
Colds are caused by viruses (these are much smaller than bacteria). A sneeze or a cough by someone with a virus can then be breathed in by another person, making them sick. People can get colds year-round, but they are most common in the winter months.
Your child probably will have more colds, or what are called "upper respiratory infections," than any other illness. In the first two years of life alone, most children have eight to ten colds. And if there are older school-age children in your house, you may see even more, since colds easily pass from one child to another.
Helpful cold resources
At the end of 2019, a new type of coronavirus, called SARS-CoV-2, began making people sick with flu-like symptoms. The illness it causes is called coronavirus disease-19 — COVID-19, for short. The virus spreads easily and has affected people all over the world.