Anyone who has ever had a cold knows about acute respiratory infections. An acute upper respiratory infection (URI) is a contagious infection of your upper respiratory tract. Your upper respiratory tract includes the nose, throat, pharynx, larynx, and bronchi. The common cold is the most well known URI. Other types of URIs include sinusitis, pharyngitis, epiglottitis, and tracheobronchitis
What causes an Upper Respiratory Infection?
An upper respiratory tract infection is generally caused by the direct invasion of the inner lining (mucosa or mucus membrane) of the upper airway by the culprit virus or bacteria. In order for the pathogens (viruses and bacteria) to invade the mucus membrane of the upper airways, they have to fight through several physical and immunologic barriers.
What are the symptoms of an Upper Respiratory Infection?
A runny nose, nasal congestion, sneezing, cough, and sputum production are the hallmark symptoms of URIs. Symptoms are caused by inflammation of the mucous membranes in the upper respiratory tract. Other symptoms include:
• Pain during swallowing
How is an Upper Respiratory Infection diagnosed?
Most people with URIs know what they have. They may visit their doctor for relief from symptoms. Looking at the patient’s medical history and doing a physical exam diagnose most URIs.
How is an Upper Respiratory Infection treated?
URIs are mostly treated for relief of symptoms. Medications are usually not prescribed for upper respiratory infections. Antibiotics are not effective in fighting viral infections. However, antibiotics are appropriate if the practitioner suspects that a bacterial infection exists, for example in cases ear infections, bacterial sinusitis, and strep throat.
Some patients benefit from the use of cough suppressants, expectorants, vitamin C, and zinc to reduce symptoms or shorten the duration. Other treatments include:
• Nasal decongestants can improve breathing.
• Steam inhalation and gargling with salt water are a safe way to get relief from URI symptoms.
• Analgesics like acetaminophen and NSAIDs can help reduce fever, aches and pains
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