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Contagious Upper Respiratory Tract Infections: Causes and Symptoms

upper respiratory infection

Upper respiratory infections are among the most common diseases that result in missed school or work. This condition generally manifests itself with mild symptoms, which can be treated at home or through over-the-counter decongestants, antihistamines, and pain relief medicines. You might need to contact your doctor if these symptoms worsen or if you also have a chronic respiratory condition, like asthma. As part of Respiratory Care Week, we are sharing in-depth information on the causes and symptoms of upper respiratory infection.

What is an upper respiratory infection?

An upper respiratory infection is a disease that affects the upper airway or respiratory tract, including the nasal passages, sinuses, larynx, and pharynx. Upper respiratory tract infections can cause inflammation around the nasal cavities, sinuses, tonsils, or trachea.

What are the major upper respiratory infections symptoms?

Some of the most common upper respiratory tract infection symptoms are as follows:

  • Nasal congestion and runny nose
  • Sneezing
  • Blocked nose
  • Pressure on the face and ears
  • Coughing
  • Sore throat
  • Excess mucus
  • Mild fever
  • Itchy eyes or nose
  • Bad breath
  • Head and body aches

What causes upper respiratory infections?

Upper respiratory infections are quite frequent and can happen anytime throughout the year but are most common during the fall and winter months. Most upper respiratory infections are viral, and exposure to airborne viruses can cause them. Poor hygiene and handwashing techniques can also lead to upper respiratory infections.

Human-to-human transmission is also a cause, and respiratory droplets spread it from coughs or sneezes and bodily fluids like saliva. It also spreads through physical contact like handshakes or sharing things with a person already infected with the virus.

Also read: What You Need to Know About Asthma

Are upper respiratory infections contagious?

Yes, these infections are contagious and are usually transmitted from exposure to airborne viruses. A healthy person can run risks of catching these infections from direct or indirect contact with an infected individual. Someone with a weaker immune system is even more susceptible to getting infected with an upper respiratory infection. Also, the virus can be transmitted when someone touches their nose or mouth with their hand or other objects that have already been contaminated by the virus. The chances of transmission are greater in enclosed spaces of gathering like offices and classrooms.

Despite many upper respiratory infections being contagious, you can prevent them by frequently washing your hands, using anti-bacterial and anti-viral sanitizers, and covering your nose and mouth near an infected person. Cover your nose and mouth while coughing and sneezing to prevent the transmission of the virus particles.

Also read: What to Eat and What to Avoid When You Have the Flu

When should you contact a doctor to treat an upper respiratory infection?

The symptoms of upper respiratory infections usually subside in a few days as they are self-limited. However, you should consult a doctor if the infection develops uncommon symptoms like shortness of breath, fever, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, which might indicate a more serious disease like influenza or bronchitis. You should also contact a medical professional if the infection lasts more than 7 to 10 days to avoid the risks of developing serious medical conditions like pneumonia. Upper respiratory infections in immunocompromised persons, pregnant women, and infants might require quick and specialized medical attention.

Upper respiratory infections are quite common and are easily treatable. If you or your loved ones are suffering from one, you can contact us at MI Express Primary Care to get treated quickly.

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