Upper respiratory infection

What is an upper respiratory infection?


 An upper respiratory infection (URI) is a viral infection that affects the respiratory system, including the ears, sinuses, nose, or throat. The common cold is the most frequently caught form of an upper respiratory infection. Other respiratory infections include ear infections, sinus infections, pharyngitis (sore throat), and tracheobronchitis (croup and other illnesses).

What are the symptoms of upper respiratory infections?

Upper respiratory infections can last from 3 to 14 days, though most clear up within 7 to 10 days. URIs occur most frequently during the fall and winter months; however, it is not uncommon to catch one during spring or summer as well. Symptoms commonly include the following:

  • Upper respiratory congestion
  • Nasal discharge
  • Low-grade fever
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Pain while swallowing
  • Pressure in the face around the sinus area
  • Wheezing


How are upper respiratory infections prevented?

Upper respiratory infections are highly contagious and can be spread by close contact with an infected person or by coughing and sneezing. Healthy hand hygiene through regular handwashing with soap and warm water is one of the most effective ways to prevent infections and the spread of germs. Respiratory infections can also be prevented by:

  • Avoiding contact with anyone who has an upper respiratory infection;
  • Regularly wiping down commonly touched surfaces, like doorknobs, with disinfectant wipes;
  • Covering your mouth with a tissue or the inside of your elbow when coughing or sneezing; and
  • Not smoking or vaping.

If symptoms are severe, do not clear up on their own after a week, or worsen, you should see a physician. In some cases, an upper respiratory infection can progress to a bacterial infection of the sinuses, ear(s), or lungs. If your physician suspects your viral upper respiratory infection has progressed to a bacterial infection, he or she may order additional testing or recommend treatment with antibiotics.

Patient First treats many conditions at our urgent care centers including upper respiratory infections. You can visit any Patient First center from 8am to 8pm, any day of the week – no appointment is needed