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Upper Respiratory Infection

Upper Respiratory Infection Overview

Patient Comments

The respiratory tract is divided into two categories based anatomy.

  • The upper respiratory tract includes the mouth, nose, throat, larynx (voice box), and trachea (windpipe). Upper respiratory infections are often referred to as "colds."
  • The lower respiratory tract includes the bronchial tubes and the lungs. Bronchitis and pneumonia are infections of the lower respiratory tract.

The "common cold" is usually caused by a viral infection and treatment is directed at managing symptoms while the body's own immune system fights the infection. Common symptoms of an upper respiratory infection such as a cold include a runny nose, post-nasal drip,cough, and nasal congestion. If laryngitis develops (larynx=voice box + itis=inflammation), the patient may lose their voice or become hoarse.

It is often difficult to know the difference between an acute upper respiratory infection and influenza (seasonal or H1N1 flu). However, influenza tends to cause symptoms and complaints that involve the entire body, including fever, chills, muscle aches and pains, and general malaise or feeling poorly. Colds tend not to have such broad body system involvement. If the health care practitioner is concerned about the diagnosis of influenza (flu), antiviral medications may be prescribed. There are no specific antiviral medications to treat the common cold.

Picture of the upper and lower respiratory tract
Picture of the upper and lower respiratory tract
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 6/12/2014

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The eMedicineHealth doctors ask about Upper Respiratory Infection:

Upper Respiratory Infection - Experience

Please describe your experience with upper respiratory infection.

Upper Respiratory Infection - Symptoms

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Upper Respiratory Infection - Home Remedies

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