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Anesthesia for the child who presents for surgery with an upper respiratory infection (URI) presents a challenge for the anesthesiologist. The current prospective study was designed to determine the incidence of and risk factors for adverse respiratory events in children with URIs undergoing elective surgical procedures.The study population included 1,078 children aged 1 month to 18 yr who presented for an elective surgical procedure. Parents were given a short questionnaire detailing their child’s demographics, medical history, and presence of any symptoms of a URI. Data regarding the incidence and severity of perioperative respiratory events were collected prospectively. Adverse respiratory events (any episode of laryngospasm, bronchospasm, breath holding > 15 s, oxygen saturation < 90%, or severe cough) were recorded. In addition, parents were contacted 1 and 7 days after surgery to determine the child’s postoperative course.There were no differences between children with active URIs, recent URIs (within 4 weeks), and asymptomatic children with respect to the incidences of laryngospasm and bronchospasm. However, children with active and recent URIs had significantly more episodes of breath holding, major desaturation (oxygen saturation < 90%) events, and a greater incidence of overall adverse respiratory events than children with no URIs. Independent risk factors for adverse respiratory events in children with active URIs included use of an endotracheal tube (< 5 yr of age), history of prematurity, history of reactive airway disease, paternal smoking, surgery involving the airway, the presence of copious secretions, and nasal congestion. Although children with URIs had a greater incidence of adverse respiratory events, none were associated with any long-term adverse sequelae.The current study identified several risk factors for perioperative adverse respiratory events in children with URIs. Although children with acute and recent URIs are at greater risk for respiratory complications, these results suggest that most of these children can undergo elective procedures without significant increase in adverse anesthetic outcomes.