We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

How do I Treat a Respiratory Infection?

Tricia Christensen
Updated Mar 03, 2024
Our promise to you
The Health Board is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At The Health Board, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

A respiratory infection can be defined as an upper or lower infection, and most people are familiar with both. To make matters confusing, upper and lower infections may occur concurrently. Upper respiratory areas include the sinuses, throat, ears, the trachea and occasionally the bronchi. Lower respiratory areas sometimes include the bronchi too, but most often refer to the lungs. How to treat these infections really depends on cause, and here it should be understood that these infections have numerous causes.

The main causes of upper and lower respiratory infections are viruses and bacteria, and more commonly viruses affect the upper respiratory system, though they can also affect the lungs. Doctors have been working assiduously to help people understand that even though those infections are miserable they’re not treatable with antibiotics. Antibiotics are only indicated when the infection is bacterial, and it’s not a good idea to treat viral infections with antibiotics because it is ineffective and can create bacteria that is antibiotic-resistant.

This doesn’t mean that a viral infection can’t become bacterial, but this usually doesn’t occur at the onset, especially with conditions like common coughs or colds. Down the road, if a cough, cold or sinus congestion isn’t improving though, this may indicate presence of bacteria and requires different treatment.

For most types of the respiratory infection, the best treatment is to drink plenty of liquids, get some rest the first few days, and wait for symptoms to resolve. Most colds should peak in misery at about the seventh to tenth day, and symptoms should then begin to improve. If, in the middle of a cold or virus, you suddenly feel much worse and develop a fever along with coughing up green or brown mucus, it could mean that the cold has become a bacterial infection and may require different treatment. Most people simply have a few days of feeling miserable and then bounce back to wellness without needing much treatment from doctors.

There are some exceptions to this rule. Certain viruses and yearly flu viruses may be very dangerous to some populations. Respiratory synctial virus (RSV) is especially dangerous to children with compromised immune systems, to infants and to kids born prematurely. There are actually medications that may prevent this virus, and children might require breathing assistance or treatments if they have RSV. Fortunately RSV can be easily diagnosed with a nasal swab of mucus.

Yearly flu viruses pose a special danger to the very young and the very old, and some doctors give special flu “boosters” that can help fight these respiratory illnesses. Prevention is even better, and yearly flu shots are a great way to never have to treat these viruses.

Those suspecting RSV or actual flu should see a doctor right away to determine specialized treatment. Parents of infants and babies should err on the side of caution, even if they think a respiratory infection may just be a cold. Similarly those who work with the elderly should suspect flu or even bacterial infection earlier and rule these out when determining a treatment course.

For the majority of respiratory infection types though, rest and fluids are far better than ineffective antibiotics. Look for danger symptoms that may develop like mid to high fever, significant cough, wheezing, lethargy, difficulty breathing, appearance of pain, and change to thick green mucus. These are always good indications to see a doctor.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a The Health Board contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a The Health Board contributor, Tricia...
Learn more
The Health Board, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

The Health Board, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.