Upper Respiratory Infection

What is an Upper Respiratory Infection?

Anyone who has ever had a cold knows about acute respiratory infections. An acute upper respiratory infection (also known as a “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 laryngitis.

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, sinus pressure, sore throat, hoarseness, ear pressure/pain or 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:
  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Pain during swallowing
  • Wheezing
  • Cough
  • Swollen lymph nodes

How is an Upper Respiratory Infection diagnosed?

Most people with URIs know what they have and may visit their doctor for relief from symptoms. If you do not have a regular physician or are unable to be seen by your doctor in a timely manner, Medical Center of Marin is here for you in Novato and Corte Madera, CA.

Whether you visit our urgent care in Novato, CA or our location in Corte Madera, CA, our physician will conduct a physical exam, may order tests, and discuss your symptoms to make a diagnosis. Typically, a physical exam combined with the patient’s medical history is all that is necessary to diagnose most URIs.

How is an Upper Respiratory Infection treated?

URIs require treatment. For viral URIs prescription strength medications provide faster and greater relief from symptoms like sinus pressure. Bacterial URIs like strep throat require antibiotics in addition to medications to alleviate symptoms like a cough or ear pain. Antibiotics are not effective in fighting viral infections.

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.