Upper Respiratory Tract Infections: Facts, Symptoms, Causes & Treatments

Tanuja Bisht

, Health A2Z

Upper respiratory tract infections (URTIs) are diseases caused by an acute infection of the upper respiratory tract, including the nose, sinuses, pharynx or larynx. These often include nasal obstruction, sore throat, tonsillitis, pharyngitis, laryngitis, sinusitis, otitis media, and a cold. Most infections are viral and in other cases are due to the bacterial cause. The infections can also be caused by fungi or helminths, but these are in rare cases.


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Upper Respiratory Tract Infections: Facts, Symptoms, Causes & Treatments




Facts Related to Upper Respiratory Infections:


  • Upper respiratory infections (URIs) are one of the most common reasons for visiting doctors.


  • Upper respiratory infections are the most common illness among people.


  • Upper respiratory infections can happen at any time throughout the year but are most common in the autumn and winter.


  • The vast majority of upper respiratory infections are caused by viruses, bacteria, and are self-limited.


  • Antibiotics are not often needed to treat these infections.


  • Simple techniques like proper hand washing and covering face while sneezing or coughing may decrease the spreading of upper respiratory infections.




What are the Symptoms of Upper Respiratory Tract Infections?


Following are some common symptoms of the disease including;



  • Sneezing


  • Nasal congestion


  • A runny nose


  • Nasal discharge



  • Scratchy or a sore throat, and


  • Nasal breathing




What are the Causes of Upper Respiratory Tract Infections?


People “catch” cold or flu when they come in contact with airborne viruses. In most cases, the virus is transmitted from person to person through the airways due to sneezing or coughing. Virus transmission can also occur due to poor handwashing techniques.


People need to understand that upper respiratory infections are contagious and transmitted from person to person. People are infected with the virus before the onset of symptoms and are therefore potentially contagious even before they know they are sick. Therefore, hygiene measures such as using hanky while sneezing and coughing and regular hand wash should be a habit for everyone, even if they are not sick.


Both viruses and bacteria can cause acute URIs such as rhinovirus, adenovirus, group A beta-hemolytic streptococci, and Corynebacterium diphtheriae (diphtheria).


Upper Respiratory Tract Infections: Facts, Symptoms, Causes & Treatments



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What are the Types of Upper Respiratory Tract Infections?


The types of these infections refer to the parts of the upper respiratory tract which is mostly involved in the infection. In addition to the common cold, there are other types of URIs including;


  • Sinusitis


  • Laryngitis


  • Epiglottitis


  • Bronchitis



What are the Treatments for Upper Respiratory Tract Infections?


These infections are usually treated for providing relief to its symptoms. Some people might get benefits from cough medicines, expectorants, vitamin C and zinc to reduce symptoms or shorten the duration. Other treatments include:


  • Nasal sprays can improve breathing. But the treatment may be less effective with repeated use and may result in obstructed nasal congestion.


  • Inhaling steam and gargling with salt water is a sure way to relieve the symptoms of URI.


  • Analgesics such as acetaminophen and NSAIDs can relieve fever, pain, and pain.



Upper Respiratory Tract Infections: Facts, Symptoms, Causes & Treatments





As we all know that Upper Respiratory Tract Infections are common among people throughout the year, so the best protection against these infections is frequent hand washing with water and soap. Washing hands helps in reducing the exposure to secretions that can spread infection.


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