Many people view upper respiratory infections and the common cold as synonymous, however that isn’t always the case. You might have an upper respiratory tract infection and strep throat. You may have an upper respiratory infection and the flu. Since there are so many variables, it is important to understand the symptoms of each and to know when to go to the doctor.
What is an Upper Respiratory Infection?
An upper respiratory infection, or URI, is described as “an infection that affects the upper respiratory tract, namely the nose, sinuses, and throat,” according to Verywell Health. The common cold virus can cause an upper respiratory infection, but that isn’t always the case.
Most of the time URIs are a viral infection, though some are caused by bacterial infections. Other causes for the infection are strep, flu, sinus infection, bronchitis, and pneumonia. Upper respiratory infection symptoms include:
- Nasal congestion
- Runny nose
- Sore throat
- Sneezes or coughs
- Muscle soreness
If you have another illness that contributes to a respiratory tract infection, you may experience other symptoms. If you have strep, you may experience swollen tonsils, bad breath, and pain while swallowing. With pneumonia, you may experience shortness of breath, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Most upper respiratory infections are a viral infection. This means that antibiotics may not help and the best way to get better is to ease symptoms as the infection passes, according to MedicineNet. Using a nasal spray may help relieve your stuffy nose. Over-the-counter medications can help reduce fevers and body aches.
When Should I See a Provider?
An upper respiratory tract infection does not always require a visit to the doctor, according to Cornell Health. However, it is important to see a medical professional if any of the following occur:
- Fever over 102 for more than 3 days
- Get worse instead of better, especially after 10 days
- Difficulty breathing, suffering shortness of breath, or wheezing
- Feel pain or pressure in your chest
- Experience severe sinus pain
- Have very swollen glands in the neck or jaw
- Have a sore throat for more than one week
- Feel extremely lethargic
- Have little to no urine output
If you believe you have symptoms of strep or pneumonia, you are encouraged to seek treatment from a medical professional. You may need antibiotics to treat the infection and get to breathing easier. If you get chronic sinus infections, you may need the help of a medical professional as well.
People who are considered high-risk from the flu should seek medical treatment, according to the Centers for Disease Control. This includes people over 65 years old, pregnant women, children younger than 5 years old, and anyone with a chronic illness like asthma, diabetes, or heart disease. It is also important to get the flu vaccine each year.
If you would like to see a provider, you are always welcome to stop by Advanced Urgent Care & Occupational Medicine. With locations across Colorado, we’re open 7 days a week, 8 am to 8 pm.