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Infection of the nose, throat and/or chest which is of sudden onset and sufficient severity to warrant immediate attention and treatment. It comprises approximately 50% of all illnesses in children under the age of 5 years and 30% in children aged 5–12 years.

Sex or Age most affected

It can begin soon after birth, maximum incidence is between 2 and 5 years of age when an average child will have as many as 10 to 12 infections per year. The incidence is more at 18-24 months reflecting the beginning of socialization by the child and between 4 and 5 years when he is commencing kindergarten and school.

Lower respiratory infections eg Pneumonia is much more frequent in early years of life. The incidence of upper respiratory tract infection due to viruses and bacteria is the same in boys and girls.



Well over 90% of respiratory infection are due to viruses. While bacteria are responsible for some upper and lower respiratory tract infections, their exact role in causing disease is often difficult to determine.

Risk Increases With

Immunological Factors: There are some children who have abnormally large number of respiratory infections or of more serious type.

Gestational age: There is an increased frequency of lower respiratory infections in prematurely born infants during their first 12 months of life.

Breast feeding: Babies who are breast fed have less risk of having serious respiratory infections or being admitted to hospital with resp infection.

Environmental Factors

Quality of maternal care: The quality of maternal care is the most important environmental factor in determining the likelihood of admission of an infant to hospital with respiratory infection.

Parental smoking: the incidence of pneumonia and bronchitis in infants during the first year of life is more than doubled if both parents smoke and increased by about 50% where one is smoker.

Exposure to infection: The incidence of infection in any child is correlated with the closeness and intensity of exposure to infection. The effect, for instance, of having older siblings is quite marked. Babies with older siblings have between 3 and 6 times as many lower respiratory infections in their first year of life as do those who are first/ only children.

Atmospheric pollution: Most cases of acute upper respiratory tract infection are of viral etiology and are self-limiting, hence they need only symptomatic therapy.