From 24 January 2020 to 18 May 2020, Chaoshan took measures to limit the spread of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), such as restricting public gatherings, wearing masks and suspending classes. We explored the effects of these measures on the pathogen spectrum of paediatric respiratory tract infections in Chaoshan. Pharyngeal swab samples were collected from 4075 children hospitalised for respiratory tract infection before (May–December 2019) and after (January–August 2020) the COVID-19 outbreak. We used liquid chip technology to analyse 14 respiratory pathogens. The data were used to explore between-group differences, age-related differences and seasonal variations in respiratory pathogens. The number of cases in the outbreak group (1222) was 42.8% of that in the pre-outbreak group (2853). Virus-detection rates were similar in the outbreak (48.3%, 590/1222) and pre-outbreak groups (51.5%, 1468/2853; χ2 = 3.446, P = 0.065), while the bacteria-detection rate was significantly lower in the outbreak group (26.2%, 320/1222) than in the pre-outbreak group (44.1%, 1258/2853; χ2 = 115.621, P < 0.05). With increasing age, the proportions of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and cytomegalovirus (CMV) infections decreased, while those of Mycoplasma pneumoniae and adenovirus infections increased. Streptococcus pneumoniae, CMV and rhinovirus infections peaked in autumn and winter, while RSV infections peaked in summer and winter. We found that the proportion of virus-only detection decreased with age, while the proportion of bacteria-only detection increased with age (Table 2). Anti-COVID-19 measures significantly reduced the number of paediatric hospitalisations for respiratory tract infections, significantly altered the pathogen spectrum of such infections and decreased the overall detection rates of 14 common respiratory pathogens. The proportion of bacterial, but not viral, infections decreased.