What is an upper respiratory infection?
An upper respiratory infection is an infection of the sinuses, nasal passages, pharynx
(the throat), or larynx (voice box). Common upper respiratory infections include
rhinitis (inflammation of the nasal cavity), the common cold, sinus congestion and/or
postnasal drip, pharyngitis, and laryngitis.
In the United States, upper respiratory infections are the most common illness leading
to missing school or work, and are one of the most frequent causes of visits to
healthcare providers. Although upper respiratory infections can happen at any time,
they most frequently occur in fall and winter.
What are the symptoms of an upper respiratory infection?
Common symptoms include runny nose, nasal congestion and discharge, sneezing, sore/scratchy
throat, cough, fatigue, and fever. Less common symptoms include reduced ability
to smell, headache, shortness of breath, sinus pain, itchy and watery eyes, nausea,
vomiting, diarrhea, bad breath, and body aches. Symptoms usually last between 3
and 14 days.
Common Cold Vs. The Flu - Differences in Symptoms
What is the treatment for an upper respiratory infection?
Most cases of upper respiratory infection are caused by viruses and therefore do
not benefit from any prescribed treatment. The following self-care should be undertaken:
- Get more rest, at least 8 hours a day. You may work and engage in light exercising
unless it causes significant discomfort.
- Increase fluid intake, at least 8-10 glasses of water per day.
- You may treat the symptoms with acetaminophen (e.g. Tylenol) or ibuprofen (e.g.
Advil, Motrin) to reduce body aches and fever. Antihistamines (e.g. Benadryl) may
be used to decrease nasal secretion and congestion. Additionally, cough medicines
and decongestants may be used as needed. Read the labels to determine if the product
is safe for you or your child.
Visit a Take Care Health Provider if your symptoms are more severe or you are at
risk for complications.