What are the symptoms of an upper respiratory tract infection?

Symptoms of an upper respiratory infection (URI) are generally mild and appear two to three days after exposure to a virus. Symptoms can vary depending on the specific type of virus causing the infection and the location of the infection in the respiratory tract. However, symptoms of different URIs often overlap. Common URI symptoms include:

  • Abnormal breathing sounds (stridor or severe wheezing)

  • Body aches or headache

  • Cough, which may be dry or productive of phlegm and worse at nighttime

  • Earache

  • Erythema (redness of the throat)
  • Facial fullness, pain or pressure

  • Fatigue

  • Low-grade fever

  • Postnasal drip

  • Runny or stuffy nose and sneezing

  • Sore throat or scratchy throat

  • Voice changes

  • Watery eyes

Symptoms that might indicate a serious or life-threatening condition

In some cases, URIs can be serious or lead to serious or life-threatening situations, such as pneumonia or epiglottitis. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you, or someone you are with, have a URI with the following symptoms:

  • Agitation or extreme irritability

  • Cough that resembles a barking seal and does not go away with home croup treatments

  • Difficulty breathing or swallowing

  • Drooling

  • Pale or bluish coloration of the lips, skin or fingernails (cyanosis)

  • Retracting of the muscles in the neck or between the ribs when breathing (retractions)

  • Uncontrollable shaking chills

  • Unexplained change in alertness or level of consciousness, such as lethargy or unresponsiveness


What is an upper respiratory infection?

The term, upper respiratory infection, often refers to a head cold or the common cold. However, a broader definition of an upper respiratory infection, or URI, is any infection of the upper parts of the respiratory tract, including the nasal passages, nasal sinuses, and throat. Sometimes the upper bronchi (large air passages leading to the left and right lungs) are included in this definition. ... Read more about upper respiratory infectionintroduction


What causes an upper respiratory infection?

URIs are usually caused by viruses, but can also be caused by bacteria in some cases. There are more than 200 different types of viruses and several types of bacteria that can cause a URI. Despite popular belief, being wet or cold does not cause respiratory infections, although these conditions may lower the body’s resistance to infection.

URIs are contagious and are most often sp... Read more about upper respiratory infectioncauses


How is an upper respiratory infection treated?

There is currently no cure for upper respiratory infections (URIs) caused by viruses, but by treating your symptoms, you can get the rest you need to keep up your strength and recover without developing complications.

Treatment of viral URIs

Treatment of viral infections includes:

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Annual Review Date: Sep 6, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Lungs, Breathing and Respiration

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