Background Demand for NHS services is high and rising. In children respiratory tract infections (RTI) are the most common reason for consultation with primary care. Understanding which features are associated with good and poor prognosis with RTI will help develop interventions to support parents manage illness. Aim To identify symptoms, signs, and investigation results associated with good and poor prognosis, and clinical decision making in children aged 1–12 years with RTI symptoms, at home and presenting to ambulatory care. Design and setting Systematic literature review. Methods We searched MEDLINE, EMBASE, Cinahl, Web of Science and the Cochrane database of systematic reviews for studies of children aged 1 to 12 years with a RTI or related condition reporting symptoms, signs and investigation results associated with prognostic outcomes. Quality was assessed using the QUIPS tool. Results We included 27 studies which included 34802 children and measured 192 factors. Nine studies explored future outcomes and the remainder explored clinical management from the initial consultation with the health services. None were conducted in a home setting. Respiratory signs, vomiting, fever, dehydration and tachycardia at the initial contact were associated with future hospitalisation. Little evidence was available for other outcomes. Conclusion Some evidence is available to clinicians to stratify risk of, future hospitalisation, but not of other prognostic outcomes. There is little evidence available to parents to identify children at risk of poor prognosis. Research is needed into whether poor prognosis can be predicted by parents in the home.