Font Size

Upper Respiratory Infection

Upper Respiratory Infection Facts

  • The respiratory tract is divided into two categories based anatomy.
    • The upper respiratory tract includes the mouth, nose, sinus, 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 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 11/17/2017

Must Read Articles Related to Upper Respiratory Infection

Bronchitis (Chronic)
Bronchitis Bronchitis is acute or chronic inflamma...learn more >>
Colds The cold is the most commonly occurring illness in...learn more >>
Coughs A cough is a symptom of an underlying disease or condition. A chronic or persistent cough may signal certain lung conditions that should be evaluated by a healt...learn more >>

Patient Comments & Reviews

The eMedicineHealth doctors ask about Upper Respiratory Infection:

Upper Respiratory Infection - Experience

Tell us your experience with upper respiratory infection.

Upper Respiratory Infection - Symptoms

What were the symptoms of your upper respiratory infection?

Upper Respiratory Infection - Home Remedies

Tell us your home remedies for upper respiratory infection?

Women with cold picture

Upper Respiratory Infection (Cold) Symptoms

Cold Symptoms and Signs

The most common complaints associated with a cold usually are mild. The following symptoms usually occur with a cold:

  • Runny nose (increased mucus production)
  • Sneezing
  • Nasal and sinus blockage (thick mucus and debris)
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • Cough
  • Mild fever

Medical Dictionary