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Cold and Flu Center

Signs & Symptoms of Upper Respiratory Infection & Ear Infection in Babies

author image Becca Hubbard-Woods
Becca Hubbard-Woods has been a freelance writer since 2005, writing for various online publications. She graduated from San Joaquin Valley Junior College with an Associate of Science in medical office administration, and achieved a Bachelor of Science in health administration from the University of Phoenix.
Signs & Symptoms of Upper Respiratory Infection & Ear Infection in Babies
A crying baby. Photo Credit: Ingrid Balabanova/Hemera/Getty Images

Upper respiratory infections and ear infections are more common in babies than adults because the passageways to the lungs and ears are much smaller than in adults. Upper respiratory infections and ear infections can be caused by viruses or bacteria. The Children’s Physician Network states that the average baby or young child will have six to 10 upper respiratory infections each year. In addition, nearly all children will have at least one ear infection before age 7.

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A mild fever, generally under 100 degrees F, can be a symptom of an ear infection or an upper respiratory infection. The body will develop a fever when there is an infection present because the white blood cells speed up to get to the infection and fight it off. This will make the core body temperature rise and is referred to as a fever. If your baby’s temperature is over 100 degrees F, call her physician for instructions.

Upper Respiratory Infection Symptoms

A baby with an upper respiratory infection may have a runny nose or trouble breathing due to mucus blocking the nasal passages. The baby will be congested or hoarse when crying. It is also possible for a baby with an upper respiratory infection to develop a rash. These symptoms will occur anywhere from one to three days after contracting a virus and can last anywhere from one to two weeks before easing. If your baby is having trouble breathing or is lethargic, seek medical attention immediately.

Ear Infection Symptoms

Because babies of a certain age aren’t able to communicate verbally, they will use signals to let you know something is wrong. If your baby is old enough to give you signs, but unable to voice what is wrong, watch for the baby to tug or pull at his ear. In addition to fever, other symptoms include ear drainage that is yellow, clear or tinged with blood. Older babies who are of walking age can have trouble with balance. Because of the pain in the ear, babies will have trouble sleeping as normal and may wake through the night crying and fussing.


A baby with an upper respiratory infection or ear infection will be fussier than normal. She may have bouts of whimpering and whining along with inconsolable crying. You will notice the baby’s cry is a cry of pain. Bottle or breast-fed babies will have trouble eating, as they are unable to breathe normally or may feel pain during feeding. Dehydration is a concern at this time. If your baby isn’t feeding as normal or is having problems nursing, pay attention to how many wet diapers you are changing. If you aren’t changing at least one wet diaper every 8 hours, seek medical attention.

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