Do You Have an Upper Respiratory Tract Infection?
That sinking feeling you have an upper respiratory tract infection brewing is something you’ve likely experienced at least once or twice. You feel chilled and may have coughing, a fever, body aches, sneezing, or a general feeling of being unwell. These infections can affect the throat, nasal passages, or even your lungs. For many people, these upper respiratory tract infections, or URIs, occur during the winter months and can be caused by bacteria, viruses, or fungi.
While many people believe respiratory tract infections all require antibiotics, this isn’t necessarily true. If the cause is viral, you only need supportive care.
Should I Be Worried About the Flu?
Influenza (a.k.a. Flu) infection is an acute respiratory infection caused by a negative-strand RNA virus. There are three types of influenza viruses that cause infection, influenza A, B, and C. Influenza A is the type that most commonly causes pandemics. The late fall and winter months are the time of year that patients are most susceptible to becoming infected with the flu. The elderly and people with chronic medical conditions such as diabetes, kidney failure, or heart disease are more prone to infection. Obtaining a flu vaccine is recommended for prevention of the flu. It should be obtained in mid to late October to achieve optimal immunity.
For individuals who do develop an upper respiratory infection, they may experience symptoms lasting between seven and 14 days. These symptoms can include a dry or wet cough, sinus pressure, headache, sneezing, and sometimes even difficulty breathing. Supportive care and conservative management may be sufficient for most respiratory infections. You should drink plenty of water and clear fluids to maintain hydration and use over-the-counter medications, such as antitussives for coughing and acetaminophen to bring your fever down. You should also rest often to speed your recovery along. Most people get relief from their symptoms in a week or two.
What if I Have Bronchitis?
Bronchitis is inflammation in the bronchial tubes and is typically treated similarly to other types of flu. However, if it is caused by bacteria or develops into bacterial pneumonia, you may require antibiotics. If your upper respiratory infection lasts longer than seven to 10 days or your symptoms get worse, see your doctor to inquire about further treatment.
What About COVID-19?
COVID-19 can affect both the upper and lower respiratory systems. This new strain of virus is still being researched extensively, but we know symptoms of the virus can include fever, cough, difficulty breathing, and sometimes GI symptoms like diarrhea. Some individuals are asymptomatic carriers who don’t experience symptoms, while others experience a more severe illness. The vaccine is still being researched, and there is no known cure. It’s essential to maintain social distance, wear a mask, and wash your hands frequently or use hand sanitizer to slow the spread of COVID-19. Individuals exposed to the virus or are concerned about contracting the virus can contact their doctor to learn more about what they should do.
Dr. Chantal Lewis,
Medical Director of VMT Home Health Agency