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Upper respiratory infections (URI) are the most common reason for urgent care visits and a big reason most of us have to call in sick to work. URIs cause inflammation of the upper respiratory tract and are also known as a cold, sinus infection, or sore throat. Colds may cause symptoms including nasal congestion, runny nose, sneezing, sore or scratchy throat, cough, and sometimes fever. Colds are usually caused by viral pathogens not bacteria, and do not respond to antibiotics. Avoidance of antibiotics during a viral infection is important because unnecessary use may lead to increase antibiotic resistance or unnecessary antibiotic side effects like allergic reaction or clostridium difficile infection.
Treatment for a URI usually includes rest, increased fluid intake, and sometimes OTC cold medicines such as decongestants, non-steroidal anti-inflammatories, and antihistamines. Some at home remedies you can try include saline nose rinses, humidifiers, drinking warm liquids to help soothe the throat, and the use of immune boosting supplements like vitamin C.
Symptoms can last 7-10 days, and even sometimes longer. If experiencing worsening symptoms, fever, difficulty breathing, or no improvement by 2 weeks you may need to see your healthcare provider to ensure that a secondary bacterial infection has not developed, as an antibiotic may be warranted at that time. URI’s are highly contagious so it is important to practice good hygiene by washing your hands during the cold seasons, covering your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing, and proper cleaning of common objects that people touch.