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Upper Respiratory Infection (cont.)

Exams and Tests

History and physical examination

The diagnosis of a cold or upper respiratory infection is usually made by history and physical examination. The health care practitioner may ask questions in regard to the onset and duration of symptoms. The physical examination may concentrate on the head, neck, and lungs.

Examination of the ears may reveal fluid behind the ear drums suggesting Eustachian tube swelling due to the cold. Nasal examination may show a clear discharge and throat examination may reveal some redness and post-nasal drip.

If the health care practitioner suspects sinusitis, he/she may use their fingers to tap on the face in areas overlying the large sinuses; the forehead for the frontal sinus and the cheek for the maxillary sinus.

The neck may be palpated or felt exploring swollen lymph nodes associated with an infection.

The lungs may be assessed with a stethoscope to listen for wheezing (a whistling noise) or crackling sounds, both signs of inflammation or infection.

Few tests are required for the diagnosis of an upper respiratory infection.

Imaging and testing

If strep throat infection is suspected, a rapid strep test or throat swab may be performed.

If sinusitis is a suspected, plain X-rays of the sinus structures may be ordered to examine air fluid levels or clouding of the sinuses consistent with infection; or a limited CT scan of the sinuses may be an ordered to look for infection. Antibiotics may be prescribed if there are fevers, facial pain, and purulent (yellowish green) discharge from the nose indicating a bacterial component to the sinusitis.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 6/12/2014

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