Learn about the causes, symptoms and treatment options for an upper respiratory tract infection
Upper respiratory tract infections are the most common illness seen in the United States and account for millions of visits to urgent care clinics each year. A number of viruses and bacteria can cause these infections, and they can produce a whole range of uncomfortable symptoms. Since you will most likely experience an upper respiratory tract infection several times in your life, it’s important to know what symptoms to look for and what treatment options are available to you.
Where is the upper respiratory tract?
The respiratory tract is divided into two parts: the upper airways and the lower airways. The upper respiratory tract consists of your nose, nasal passages, mouth, sinuses, the pharynx (the area that connects the nose and mouth to the esophagus) and the larynx (the area that holds the vocal cords). This part of the respiratory tract is responsible for bringing oxygen into your body and passing it down into your lungs. When you breathe air in, it passes across areas that are lined with mucus and tiny hairs, called cilia, which help to collect small particles, such as pollen and germs, and keep them from entering further into your body.
What is an upper respiratory tract infection?
An upper respiratory tract infection, also known as a URI, occurs when bacteria or a virus manages to pass through the body’s first line of defense and infects the upper areas of the respiratory tract. The common cold is the most well-known form of an upper respiratory tract infection. This type of infection is extremely contagious, and you can easily spread it from person to person by sneezing, coughing or not using proper hand-washing techniques.
What are the symptoms of a URI?
The most common symptoms of an upper respiratory tract infection are:
- Runny nose.
- Nasal congestion.
- Sore throat.
- Sinus pain.
Can I treat a URI at home?
Most upper respiratory tract infections don’t have a cure and must be left to run their course, which usually lasts from three to seven days. There are many medications available at your local pharmacy that can help to ease your symptoms, including throat lozenges, pain relievers, decongestant cold medications and nasal sprays. Some of these over-the-counter medications may not be appropriate for you, depending on your medical history, so be sure to speak to your doctor or pharmacist first.
The best way to stay healthy is to avoid contracting a URI in the first place. Make sure that you wash your hands with warm, soapy water frequently and refrain from touching your eyes, nose and mouth as much as possible. Viruses and bacteria can live on surfaces for up to 24 hours, so wipe down all counters, doorknobs, remote controls and telephones frequently with a disinfectant, especially if someone in your home is sick.
If the symptoms of your URI continue to worsen, your fever increases or there is no improvement in a few days, it’s time to visit your local Velocity Care Urgent Treatment Center. With locations throughout Arkansas and Louisiana, you’ll be sure to find a walk-in clinic close to you where you’ll receive prompt and efficient care for all your health-related needs. Visit our website today for more information on how we can take care of you and your family.
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