Upper Respiratory Tract Infection

Upper respiratory tract infection (URTI) is an illness caused by acute infections involving the upper respiratory tract which includes the nose, pharynx, larynx and sinuses. URTI are pharyngitis, laryngitis, tonsillitis, sinusitis, common colds and otitis media.

Common upper respiratory tract infections and their definitions:

· Rhinitis – nasal mucosa inflammation

· Sinusitis – paranasal sinuses inflammation including the frontal, maxillary, ethmoid and sphenoid areas of the sinuses

· Nasophayrngitis – pharynx, hypopharynx, nares, tonsils and uvula inflammation

· Pharyngitis – pharynx, hypopharynx, tonsils and uvula inflammation

· Epiglottitis – supraglottic area and larynx superior portion inflammation

· Tracheitis – subglottic area and trachea inflammation

· Laryngitis – larynx inflammation

· Laryngotrachetis – subglottic area, trachea and larynx inflammation

Signs and Symptoms

Upper Respiratory Tract InfectionAcute upper respiratory infection includes tonsillitis, rhinitis, pharyngitis and laryngitis sometimes referred as common cold. Complications include sore throat, cough, nasal congestion, runny nose, headache, facial pressure, low grade fever and sneezing. Usually, beginning of symptoms is in one to three days after microbial pathogen exposure. It usually last for seven to ten days.

Beta haemolytic group A streptococcal tonsillitis and pharyngitis presents sudden pain upon swallowing, sore throat and fever. Strep throat don’t cause, voice changes, runny nose or cough.

Pain and pressure on the ear caused by otitis media and reddening of eyes or conjunctivitis are usually associated with URTI.


In the case of upper respiratory tract infection over 200 viruses were already isolated. Rhinovirus is the most common virus. Other viruses are parainfluenza virus, corona virus, enterovirus, adenovirus and respiratory syncitial virus.

Streptococcal pharyngitis and group A streptococcus account 15% of cases of pharyngitis. The flu or influenza is a more severe type of upper respiratory infection.


Treatment depends on the causative agent. There are no herbal remedies or medications discovered to shorten the disease duration. Treatment is usually symptomatic support, meaning the symptoms are being treated and not the disease itself. This can include analgesics for sore throat, headache and muscle aches.

Health authorities are now encouraging physicians to lessen the prescription of antibiotics for treating upper respiratory tract infections. Some have advocated delaying use of antibiotic for treating URTI to prevent drug resistance. Studies show that there is no so much difference with treating immediately with antibiotics with delayed prescriptions. However in severe cases like in COPD and bronchitis, antibiotics are used to shorten the illness.

Using vitamin C as treatment and prevention has been widely used since it was introduced. Some studies have shown that taking rest and doing exercises while having upper respiratory disease doesn’t contribute to the duration of illness. So people who have adapted a lifestyle where in exercise is a part of their daily routine, it is fine to continue exercising while in this condition.


Transmission is through direct contact from virus-contaminated hands and through droplets. The upper respiratory tract including the nose, sinuses and throat inflammation usually causes secretions resulting to coughing or sneezing. This is how URTI can be transmitted.

URTI has been the leading reason for people to be absent in offices and schools.

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