Pneumonia due to either Streptococcus pneumoniae (Sp) or Staphylococcus aureus (Sa) accounts for most mortality after influenza and acute respiratory illness (ARI). Because carriage precedes infection, we estimated Sp and Sa carriage to examine the co-colonization dynamics between Sp, Sa and respiratory viruses in the presence of ARI in the oropharynx. We tested oropharyngeal specimens of community subjects (aged ⩾2 years) with ARI for the presence of influenza A and B, 11 other common respiratory viruses, Sp and Sa, using real-time PCR. A total of 338 participants reported 519 ARI episodes of which 119 (35%) carried Sp, 52 (13%) carried Sa and 25 (7%) carried both. Thirty-five subjects tested positive for influenza, of which 14 (40%) carried Sp and six (17%) carried Sa, significantly more than in the influenza-negative group (P = 0·03 and P = 0·04, respectively). In subjects infected by any virus compared to those with no virus, Sp carriage (39·2% vs. 27·9%, P = 0·03) but not Sa carriage (11·6% vs. 14%, P = 0·6) was more frequent. For children, when Sa was present, Sp carriage tended to be less frequent than expected given the presence of viral infection, but not significantly [observed relative risk 1·14, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0·4–3·1; with a relative excess risk due to interaction of –0·11]. Independent of age, Sp carriers were more likely to return that season with subsequent ARI (odds ratio 2·14, 95% CI 1·1–4·3, P = 0·03). Both Sp and Sa carriage rates in the oropharynx increase during influenza infection in children. However, no negative interaction between Sp and Sa was observed. Sp carriers are more likely to suffer subsequent ARI episodes than non-carriers.