Upper Respiratory Treatment

Upper respiratory infections are one of the most common reasons for doctor visits. An upper respiratory tract infection is an infectious process of any of the components of the upper airway. It is also one of the most common illnesses, can happen at any time, and usually results in missed work or school. The vast majorities of upper respiratory infections happen in the fall and winter, and are caused by viruses. Antibiotics are usually not needed to treat upper respiratory infections and generally should be avoided, unless a doctor suspects a bacterial infection.

Most often, upper respiratory infection is contagious and can spread from person to person by inhaling respiratory droplets from coughing or sneezing. The transmission can also occur by touching the nose or mouth by hand or other object exposed to the virus. Simple techniques, such as proper hand washing and covering face while coughing or sneezing, may reduce the spread of upper respiratory infections.

The upper respiratory tract includes the sinuses, nasal passages, pharynx, and larynx. These structures direct the air we breathe from the outside to the trachea and eventually to the lungs for respiration to transpire.
Examples of these infections may include:
Rhinitis (inflammation of the nasal cavity), sinus infection (sinusitis or rhinosinusitis) – inflammation of the sinuses located around the nose.
Common cold (nasopharyngitis) – inflammation of the nares, pharynx, hypopharynx, uvula, and tonsils.
Pharyngitis (inflammation of the pharynx, uvula, and tonsils).
Epiglottitis (inflammation of the upper portion of the larynx or the epiglottis).
Laryngitis (inflammation of the larynx).
Laryngotracheitis (inflammation of the larynx and the trachea).
Tracheitis (inflammation of the trachea).
Upper respiratory infections usually self-resolve, but can in some cases become more severe. If you suspect that you have an upper respiratory infection, visiting a doctor may be advisable if:
Symptoms last more than a couple of weeks
Symptoms are severe and worsening
Difficulty breathing
Swallowing is impaired
Upper respiratory infection is recurring
Sometimes hospitalization may be necessary if the upper respiratory infection is severe and causes significant dehydration, respiratory difficulty with poor oxygenation (hypoxia), significant confusion, lethargy, and worsening of shortness of breath in chronic lung and heart disease (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or COPD, congestive heart failure). Hospitalizations are much more common in children less than 2 years of age, elderly people (especially those with dementia), and immunocompromised individuals (weak immune system).