How to Treat an Upper Respiratory Infection
Upper respiratory infections (URIs) are common and easily spread from person-to-person. While URIs are not dangerous ailments, they can slow you down and cause unpleasant symptoms, such as nasal congestion and a sore throat. Once you have identified a URI, do what you can to ease your pain and symptoms while you ride it out. Help speed up the process by staying well-hydrated and avoiding triggers like alcohol and cigarette smoke.
Treating Your Cold
Ask your doctor about taking an over-the-counter oral decongestant.Decongestants can reduce nasal and sinus congestion. Talk to your doctor before taking one as they may cause reactions with some medications or be unsuitable for people with certain conditions. Follow the dosage directions from your doctor or pharmacist and do not exceed the recommended dose.
- Pseudoephedrine is a popular over-the-counter decongestant to treat common colds.
- Read the label carefully to follow the precautions and directions correctly.
Rest as much as possible to give your body extra strength.Try to get as much sleep as you can while experiencing a URI and avoid strenuous activity. Rest will allow your body to focus energy on your immune system, speeding up your recovery. Make sure to get at least 8 hours of sleep at night and take naps during the day if you can.
- If possible, take a day or 2 off of work, school, or other responsibilities to focus on getting better.
- Strenuous activities may include playing sports or heavy lifting.
Drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration.Dehydration can make URI symptoms worse, slowing down your recovery time. Drink plenty of water, herbal tea, or juice to hydrate your body. This will also moisten your nasal passages and sinus membranes, reducing irritation.
- Try to water down fruit juice as much as possible as it is high in sugar.
- You can also consume warm broth and broth-based soups to hydrate your body and help open up your nasal passages.
- Avoid caffeinated drinks like coffee or soda since these can also cause dehydration.
Avoid alcoholic beverages while you recover.Don't drink alcohol while you are suffering from a URI, as it will dehydrate you and worsen your symptoms. Alcohol may also suppress some of your body's immune functions, making it harder for it to fight back against illness. Steer clear of alcohol until all of your URI symptoms have subsided.
Avoid smoking and steer clear of secondhand cigarette smoke.Make sure that your home is a smoke-free area while you recover from your URI as cigarette smoke will further irritate your nose, throat, and sinuses. Stop smoking or reduce the number of cigarettes you smoke as much as you can. Stay away from smoky areas or friends who smoke to avoid exposure to secondhand smoke while you recover.
- For help to quit smoking entirely, speak to your doctor about your options or call 1-800-QUIT-NOW to get help.
Easing Your Symptoms
Talk to your doctor non-prescription pain relievers to ease discomfort.Taking over-the-counter pain medications like ibuprofen or acetaminophen can reduce sinus pain, sore throat, and headaches that come with URIs. Ask your doctor if one of these pain relievers would be right for you to make sure that they won't interfere with any other medications or health issues. Follow their directions for the proper dosage.
Use a saline nasal spray or rinse to relieve nasal dryness.Purchase a non-medicinal saline nose spray from the pharmacy to reduce nasal discomfort. Spray it into each nostril 1-2 times, several times a day to remove irritants and hydrate your nasal passages. You can also use a neti pot to rinse your nasal passages with clean salt water.
Use a warm-mist humidifier to soothe your irritated nasal passages.A warm mist humidifier will infuse the air with moisture, easing your dry nose. Turn on the humidifier while you are at home, particularly before you go to sleep. Keep the humidifier out of reach of children and pets, as it will create hot water while operating that might burn them.
- Be sure to keep your humidifier clean to avoid spreading germs in your home.
- Purchase a humidifier at a pharmacy, department store, or online.
- A warm shower may achieve the same effect if you don't have a humidifier.
- If you have allergies or asthma, talk to your doctor before using a humidifier.
Making Sure You Have an Upper Respiratory Infection
Take note if your symptoms are located in the upper respiratory tract.A distinguishing factor of an upper respiratory infection is where the sickness presents itself in your body. Review your symptoms to make sure they are in your head and upper chest area and not in your lungs. Common ailments will include:
- Runny nose
- Sore throat
- Mild fever
Look at your nasal secretions to make sure they are clear or light.A regular URI will produce a lot of mucus, resulting in a running nose and nasal congestion. When you blow your nose, check your tissues to see what color the mucus is. If you notice dark yellow or green coloring, you are likely suffering from a bacterial sinus infection and not a simple cold.
- Another key symptom of a sinus infection is facial pain.
- Contact your doctor immediately as you may require antibiotics to get rid of the infection.
Visit your doctor if the symptoms last longer than 14 days.Most upper respiratory infections will go away after 3-5 days, but some can drag out to 10-14 days. If you feel sick for longer than 2 weeks, visit your doctor to rule out other possible ailments. Your doctor may need to prescribe antibiotics if you are suffering from some sort of bacterial infection.
- Your doctor may also prescribe a nasal spray or decongestant to help speed up your recovery.
- If you have difficulty breathing, impaired swallowing, or recurring infections, contact your doctor immediately.
- You may need to be hospitalized if you are severely dehydrated, have difficulty breathing, or lethargic. Hospitalization is common for children under 2, elderly people, and those with compromised immune systems.
- Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is a common and contagious virus in young children and babies. Contact your pediatrician if your child has difficulty breathing.
- URIs are most common from September to March in the US since this is when people stay inside in groups and children are in school.
- Be sure not to overlap over-the-counter medications, which may cause a bad reaction if taken at the same time.
- Maintain a healthy diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables to help avoid URIs.
- Supplements like zinc may help to improve your symptoms, but these benefits have not been proven scientifically.
- URIs can be spread by sneezing or coughing. Cover your mouth and use good handwashing techniques.
Video: Treating Upper Respiratory Infections
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