Upper Respiratory Infection

General Illness Information

Medical Term:
Upper Respiratory Infection, URI

Common name Common Cold

Description: A contagious viral infection of the upper-respiratory passages

Causes:

Any of at least 100 viruses. Virus particles spread through the air or from person-to-person contact, especially hand-shaking.

Prevention:

  • Wash hands frequently, especially after blowing your nose or handling food.
  • To prevent spreading a cold to others, avoid unnecessary contact during the contagious phase (first 2 to 4 days).
  • Avoid crowded places when possible, especially during the winter.
  • Eating a well-balanced, healthy diet that includes plenty of citrus fruits and other sources of vitamin C.
  • Some herbal supplements such as Echinacea, Goldenseal are popular as preventives.

Signs & Symptoms

  • Aches and pains.
  • Runny or stuffy nose. Nasal discharge is watery at first, then becomes thick and yellow.
  • Sore throat.
  • Hoarseness.
  • Cough that produces little or no sputum.
  • Low fever or no fever.
  • Fatigue.
  • Watery eyes.
  • Appetite loss.

Risk Factors

  • Exposure to infected individuals
  • Touching one’s nose or conjunctiva with contaminated fingers

Diagnosis & Treatment

This is a clinical diagnosis. No specific tests are necessary.

General Measures:

  • Use a cool-mist, ultrasonic humidifier to increase air moisture. Clean humidifier every day.
  • For a baby too young to blow his nose, use an infant nasal aspirator. If mucus is thick and sticky, loosen it by putting 2 or 3 drops of salt solution into each nostril.
  • Don’t insert cotton swabs into a child’s nostrils. Instead, catch the discharge outside the nostril on a tissue or swab, roll it around and pull the discharge out of the nose.

Medications:

No medicine, including antibiotics, can cure the common cold. To relieve symptoms, you may use non-prescription drugs, such as acetaminophen, decongestants, nose drops or sprays, cough remedies and throat lozenges. Some herbal supplements such as Echinacea/Goldenseal may help in alleviating symptoms.

Activity:

Bed rest is not necessary, but avoid vigorous activity. Rest often.

Diet:

Regular diet. Drink extra fluids, including water, fruit juice, tea and carbonated drinks.

Possible Complications:

Lower respiratory tract infection Bronchial hyperreactivity.

May lead to exacerbation in patients with asthma and chronic lung disease Otitis media (2% of colds) Acute sinusitis (0.5% of colds) Pneumonia Rhinitis medicamentosa (from over use of nasal sprays).

Prognosis

Excellent.

Other

‘Nothing Specified’.

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