An upper respiratory infection is an infection that develops in the nose and throat, and is also known as the common cold. The average upper respiratory infection lasts from one week to 11 days. If symptoms extend past 14 days, it may be time to see a doctor to rule out any complications. Upper respiratory infections are caused by one of over 200 viruses, such as the rhinovirus and parainfluenza virus. Upper respiratory infection symptoms include a sore throat, with or without a cough, and nasal congestion.
Upper respiratory infections typically clear up on their own, with no need for medical intervention. Symptoms of uncomplicated cases of upper respiratory infections can be treated with over the counter antihistamines and decongestants, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Occasionally. A secondary bacterial infection may develop that requires an antibiotic.
People suffering from upper respiratory infections may develop laryngitis, or inflammation of the larynx. Laryngitis causes hoarseness and a raspy voice. In severe cases, the individual may lose his or her voice entirely. People suffering from laryngitis may also experience a sore throat, dryness in the throat, difficulty swallowing and coughing. Laryngitis is treated by resting the voice, drinking fluids, and avoiding cigarette smoke.
A more severe form of upper respiratory infection is influenza. The influenza virus tends to spread seasonally. The virus is spread when an infected person coughs or sneezes, propelling microscopic droplets into the air. Symptoms of influenza include fatigue, muscle aches, sore throat, fever, chills, coughing, and a headache. Pneumonia can develop as a complication of influenza.
Upper respiratory infections that linger past 10 days may develop into sinus infections. The virus responsible for the upper respiratory infection can damage the lining of the sinuses, causing inflammation. Symptoms of a sinus infection include pressure behind the eyes, alongside the nose, on the cheeks, or on one side of the head. People with sinus infections often experience headaches, bad breath, nasal congestion combined with thick secretions, coughing, and a fever.
At-home treatment for sinus infections include inhaling steam several times a day, either with a steam vaporizer or by leaning over a bowel filled with hot water, drinking water and warm tea to thin nasal secretions, and treating the pain with over the counter anti-inflammatory medication. If the pain persists, it may be necessary to visit a healthcare provider. A healthcare provider can prescribe antibiotics to treat the infection, as well as a nasal spray that contains steroids to reduce inflammation in the sinuses.