Upper Respiratory Infection (cont.)
Siamak N. Nabili, MD, MPH
Dr. Nabili received his undergraduate degree from the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), majoring in chemistry and biochemistry. He then completed his graduate degree at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). His graduate training included a specialized fellowship in public health where his research focused on environmental health and health-care delivery and management.
William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.
In this Article
- Upper respiratory infection facts
- What is an upper respiratory infection?
- Is an upper respiratory infection contagious?
- What are the causes of upper respiratory infection?
- What are the risk factors for upper respiratory infection?
- What are the symptoms of upper respiratory infection?
- When should you seek medical care for upper respiratory infection?
- How is an upper respiratory infection diagnosed?
- What is the treatment for upper respiratory infection?
- What are some of the home remedies for upper respiratory infection?
- What are some data on alternative therapies in treating upper respiratory infections?
- What are the complications of an upper respiratory infection?
- Can an upper respiratory infection be prevented?
- What is the outlook for a patient suffering from an upper respiratory infection?
- Common Cold Prevention Slideshow
- Sinusitis Slideshow
- Take the Common Cold Quiz
- Find a local Family Physician in your town
What are the risk factors for upper respiratory infection?
Some common risk factors for upper respiratory infection are:
- physical or close contact with someone with a upper respiratory infection;
- poor hand washing after contact with an individual with upper respiratory infection;
- close contact with children in a group setting, schools or daycare centers;
- contact with groups of individuals in a closed setting, such as, traveling, tours, cruises;
- smoking or second-hand smoking (may impair mucosal resistance and destroy the cilia);
- health care facilities, hospitals, nursing homes;
- immunocompromised state (compromised immune system) such as, HIV, organ transplant, congenital immune defects, long term steroid use; and
- anatomical abnormalities as in facial trauma, upper airway trauma, nasal polyps.
What are the symptoms of upper respiratory infection?
Generally, the symptoms of upper respiratory infection result from the toxins released by the pathogens as well as the inflammatory response mounted by the immune system to fight the infection.
Common symptoms of upper respiratory infection generally include:
- nasal congestion,
- runny nose (rhinorrhea),
- nasal discharge (may change from clear to white to green)
- nasal breathing,
- sore or scratchy throat,
- painful swallowing (odynophagia),
- cough (from laryngeal swelling and post nasal drip),
- malaise, and
- fever (more common in children).
Other less common symptoms may include foul breath, poor smelling sensation (hyposmia), headache, shortness of breath, sinus pain, itchy and watery eye (conjunctivitis), nausea, vomiting diarrhea, and body aches.
The symptoms of upper respiratory infection usually last between 3-14 days; if symptoms last longer than 14 days, an alternative diagnosis can be considered such as, sinusitis, allergy, pneumonia, or bronchitis.
Bacterial pharyngitis (strep throat due to group A streptococcus) may be considered if symptoms continue to worsen after the first week in the absence of runny nose, cough, or conjunctivitis. Prompt testing and initiation of appropriate antibiotics is important due to the risk of developing rheumatic fever, especially in children.
Epiglottitis is an upper respiratory infection in children that may have a more sudden onset of sore throat, feeling of a lump in the throat, muffled voice, dry cough, very painful swallowing, and drooling.
Upper respiratory infections in the lower part of the upper respiratory tract, such as, laryngotracheitis, are more commonly featured with dry cough and hoarseness or loss of voice. Barking or whooping cough, gagging, rib pain (from severe cough) are other presenting features.
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