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Common colds are infections of mostly viral origin that frequently occur in childhood. The overall anesthetic risk in children with respiratory tract infections is increased because of the increased incidence of perioperative respiratory adverse events (PRAEs). Although the morbidity and mortality of PRAE are low when managed by experienced anesthesiologists, careful preoperative assessment and perioperative anesthetic care are indispensable.This review summarizes recent studies to give a brief overview and background information with regard to the pathophysiological mechanisms of upper respiratory tract infections, risk factors for PRAE in children with a cold, management of anesthesia and prevention and treatment of frequently observed adverse events as well as a proposal for a decision algorithm.Children with a cold can be safely anesthetized under certain circumstances; however, anesthesia in children with symptomatic infections with wheezing, purulent secretion, fever and reduced general condition should be postponed for at least 2 weeks. Anesthetic treatment options for children with infection of the upper airway with a runny nose and cough include preoperative inhalational therapy with salbutamol, avoidance of endotracheal intubation whenever possible, use of a face mask or laryngeal mask, intravenous induction with propofol and avoidance of desflurane. Prevention, early recognition and immediate treatment of complications by an experienced anesthesiologist are crucial.