About upper respiratory tract infection

What is upper respiratory tract infection?

The respiratory system consists of a network of organs like the nose, mouth, voice box, windpipe, airways, lungs, blood vessels, and specific muscles. All work together in a coordinated manner and help in respiration.

  • Upper Respiratory Tract Infections (URTI) occurs in the nasal passage and the throat. It includes common cold, rhinitis (inflammation of the nasal cavity), sinusitis (when the air-filled spaces behind the nasal bones), cheeks and eyes get infected and inflamed, epiglottitis (swelling of the epiglottis due to infection), laryngitis (occurs when the larynx or the voice box gets infected), pharyngitis or sore throat.
  • Upper respiratory tract infection occurs when the nasal passage and throat get infected by various microorganisms like viruses or bacteria. These enter the body, usually through the nose or mouth. Upper respiratory tract infection can be contagious.
  • URTIs are caused by a direct entry into the airway by viruses or bacteria. They include airborne respiratory droplets, coming into contact with a contaminated surface when handled or touching infected surfaces and then touching their nose, eyes, or mouth, sharing foods and drinks, sharing contaminated foodstuff leading to the spreading of the upper respiratory tract infection, etc.
  • Direct contact between an infected and non-infected person, such as shaking hands, can lead to the transmission of upper respiratory tract infection.



What are the symptoms for upper respiratory tract infection?

Upper respiratory tract infection affects the sinuses and the throat areas. Some common symptoms of the Upper respiratory tract infection are as follows:-

  • Blocked or runny nose: A stuffy or blocked nose happens when nasal and nearby tissues and blood vessels swell up due to excessive fluid. A Runny nose occurs due to excessive nasal secretions -mucus.
  • Sneezing: When Mucus membranes in the nose or throat get irritated, it triggers a sneeze.
  • Sore throat: Maybe mild discomfort leading to difficulty in swallowing and speaking. 
  • Hoarse voice: Voice sounds raspy or breathy. 
  • Coughing and Wheezing: Feeling discomfort in the chest along with congestion may have a person Cough up mucus. 
  • Swelling of the face around the sinus: Infection by virus or bacteria causes pain or blocked sinus.
  • Blocked ears: A feeling of pressure is experienced. This may muffle hearing and cause dizziness.
  • Changes in smell or taste: Swelling and blockage of nasal passages reduce the ability to smell or cause a temporary loss of smell.
  • Headache: Pressure in the sinuses causes headaches. 
  • Muscle aches: Muscles ache and patients may feel stiff and sore. 
  • Fever and swollen lymph nodes.



What are the causes for upper respiratory tract infection?

Upper Respiratory Tract Infection (URTI) occurs when the nasal passage and throat get infected by various microorganisms like viruses or bacteria. These enter the body, usually through the nose or mouth. The upper respiratory tract infection is contagious.

Causes:

  • A direct entry into the airway by viruses or bacteria.
  • Airborne respiratory droplets: When an infected person coughs or sneezes, the disease-causing microorganisms or germs spread in the surroundings.
  • Coming into contact with a contaminated surface. When people handle or touch infected surfaces and then touch their nose, eyes, or mouth
  • Sharing foods and drinks. Sharing of contaminated foodstuff leads to the spreading of the upper respiratory tract infection.
  • Skin-to-skin contact with an infected person. Direct contact between an infected and non-infected person, such as shaking hands, can lead to the transmission of upper respiratory tract infection.

Few other factors that increase the risk of contracting these infections include:

  • Staying in a crowded place for a long time.
  • Visiting a hospital or clinic which has a high incidence of infection.
  • Removal of tonsils or adenoids. 
  • Smoking, as well as secondhand smoke.
  • Nasal cavity damage.
  • Malfunctioning of the immune system to attack cells of their own body and subsequent prescription of immunosuppressants, make such people vulnerable to upper respiratory tract infection.
  • A weakened, aged immune system provides lesser protection against disease.



What are the treatments for upper respiratory tract infection?

Upper Respiratory Tract Infections (URTI) do not have a cure. Antibiotics will only treat a bacterial illness, not the URTI. So, here are a few simple home remedies for upper respiratory tract infections:

  • Nasal decongestants: Nasal decongestants can help a person with an upper respiratory tract infection to breathe more easily. However, repeated use of the therapy may reduce its effectiveness and may result in rebound nasal congestion.
  • Humidifiers: Humidifiers can help with the symptoms of a stuffy nose caused by a URI. In the bedroom, a cool-mist humidifier can assist with proper breathing. It is preferable to seek medical advice before using one. 
  • OTC (Over-the-counter) drugs: During the cold and flu season, patients with upper respiratory tract infections can use over-the-counter medications such as acetaminophen and Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) to help reduce fever, aches, and pains on a daily basis. Acetaminophen should not be taken in large amounts. 
  • Steam inhalation: A person suffering from an upper respiratory tract infection can try a steam inhalation. Boil one liter of water, add a piece of camphor and inhale the vapor for 10 min. It helps clear blocked respiratory passages by melting mucus membranes. It acts as a natural nasal decongestant, relaxing and lubricating the respiratory tract.



What are the risk factors for upper respiratory tract infection?

Upper respiratory tract infection is a viral infection that mainly affects the throat, nose, and airways and generally lasts for seven to ten days. Below are some of the risk factors for upper respiratory tract infection.

  • Smoke- A person who smokes or indirectly consumes any form of smoke is likely to catch upper respiratory tract infections. This does not mean that people who do not smoke can never get this. There are several other factors as well which might result in contracting upperrespiratory tract infections.
  • Hygiene- Upper respiratory tract infections such as colds and influenza come under the category of communicable diseases and therefore spread through contact. Poor hygiene conditions like touching your nose, mouth with contaminated hands, eating food before washing your hands, and shaking hands when someone is caught with an upper respiratory tract infection, can cause these infections.
  • Medical Conditions- People who have several specific medical conditions are at risk of getting some complications. Especially people who are suffering from any kind of respiratory disorder or major kidney disease are more prone to these infections. 
  • Age- It is observed that most children and old age people are more likely to get these infections.



Is there a cure/medications for upper respiratory tract infection?

Since the majority of upper respiratory tract infections are caused by viruses, they are self-limiting and do not require treatment. Patients may commonly identify and cure upper respiratory tract infections at home without the need for a doctor's visit or prescription medicines.

The following are some of the most frequent upper respiratory tract infections or cold drugs used to treat these symptoms:

  • Fever and bodily pains can be relieved by acetaminophen (Tylenol).
  • Body pains and fever can be treated with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines like ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil).
  • Nasal secretions and congestion can be relieved with antihistamines such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl).
  • Nasal ipratropium (topical) is a medication that can be used to reduce nasal secretions.
  • Cough suppressants (antitussives) can be used to help with coughing. Many cough treatments, such as dextromethorphan, guaifenesin (Robitussin), and codeine, are commercially available and have been found to reduce coughing in upper respiratory infections.
  • Honey can be used to help with coughing.
  • Some cough and cold drugs should be taken with caution in children under the age of four and the elderly because they might induce excessive drowsiness.
  • If a bacterial infection is suspected or confirmed, broad-spectrum antibiotics are sometimes used to treat upper respiratory tract infections.

List of Symptoms: Coughing, runny nose, sneezing, throat pain, and fever.

List of Conditions: Diseases of the respiratory tract impact the airways, such as the nasal passages, bronchi, and lungs.

List of Drugs: Penicillin VK (Penicillin V), Amoxicillin (Amoxil, Moxatag, Trimox), Penicillin G benzathine (Bicillin LA, Permapen), Cefadroxil (Duricef).



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