Upper respiratory infection is among the most common reasons people seek medical attention and are the leading reason why people miss school or work.
The respiratory tract is the pathway that carries air to the lungs. The lower respiratory tract consists of the lungs and windpipe, while the upper respiratory tract includes the nose, sinuses, throat (pharynx), and voice box (larynx). Although sinusitis, laryngitis, and strep throat are all infections of the upper respiratory tract, the term "upper respiratory infection" (URI) usually refers to acute viral respiratory infections such as the common cold or flu.
URIs are most commonly caused by viruses and can occur year-round, although most occur during the cold or rainy months in the winter. They are also very common among young children in daycare, as their immune systems are still developing.
The symptoms of a upper respiratory infection typically include::
- Body aches
- Ear fullness
- Hoarse voice
- Low-grade fever
- Nasal congestion
- Runny nose with clear mucus
- Scratchy or sore throat
A swab of your throat allows your doctor to quickly diagnose strep throat (a bacterial infection of the throat), which sometimes can be confused with a viral URI through symptoms alone.
Your ENT specialist may recommend a chest X-ray to make sure you don’t have pneumonia, especially if you are coughing up mucus, are running a fever, or have chest pain.
Computerized tomography (CT) scan
Your doctor can use a CT scan to rule out chronic sinusitis, which can have similar symptoms. However, this is generally not done for viral URIs or acute sinusitis. CT scans are mainly performed for chronic sinusitis not responding to medical treatments.
Your ENT doctor may recommend that you temporarily use a saline or decongestant nasal spray to help clear out your nasal congestion from the inflammation caused by the viral infection.
Certain over-the-counter medications, like aspirin or ibuprofen or decongestants, can help manage the symptoms of a URI, such as fever, aches, and pains, as well as the common cold.
At-home remedies, like using a humidifier or gargling with saltwater can help reduce the symptoms of a URI, like a runny nose, sore throat, and sneezing, while your body fights the infection and recovers, generally within a couple weeks.
Why Choose UHealth?
Ranked No. 28 in the nation according to U.S. News & World Report. The ranking reflects the team’s dedication to excellence in research patient care and outcomes. Surgeons, audiologists, biomedical engineers, speech pathologists, researchers, and psychologists collaborate with many research programs at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine to deliver the best possible multidisciplinary care to pediatric and adult ear, nose, and throat patients.
Highly specialized rhinology doctors. The experts at University of Miami Health are here to help you breathe easier, smell better, and rest better with an accurate diagnosis and leading edge treatments in a compassionate setting. Our fellowship-trained providers specialize in the nasal airway, and our rhinology specialists have completed specialized training in nasal and sinus disorders. They have dedicated their clinical and research careers to caring for nasal and sinus disorders.
Our academic health center provides you with more treatment options. Our ENT specialists are experts in the field of rhinology. As part of an academic health center, we are proud to offer breakthrough treatments not available to other facilities in South Florida. We also offer our patients early access to clinical trials and new medical and procedural treatments. We provide comprehensive care for a wide array of rhinologic conditions, backed by expertise, research, and education.
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