Upper Respiratory Infection - Symptoms

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What are the symptoms of upper respiratory infection?

Generally, the symptoms of upper respiratory infection result from the toxins released by the pathogens as well as the inflammatory response mounted by the immune system to fight the infection.

Common symptoms of upper respiratory infection generally include:

  • nasal congestion,
  • runny nose (rhinorrhea),
  • nasal discharge (may change from clear to white to green)
  • nasal breathing,
  • sneezing,
  • sore or scratchy throat,
  • painful swallowing (odynophagia),
  • cough (from laryngeal swelling and post nasal drip),
  • malaise, and
  • fever (more common in children).

Other less common symptoms may include

  • foul breath,
  • reduced ability to smell (hyposmia),
  • headache,
  • shortness of breath,
  • sinus pain,
  • itchy and watery eye (conjunctivitis),
  • nausea,
  • vomiting
  • diarrhea, and
  • body aches.

The symptoms of upper respiratory infection usually last between 3-14 days; if symptoms last longer than 14 days, an alternative diagnosis can be considered such as, sinusitis, allergy, pneumonia, or bronchitis.

Bacterial pharyngitis (strep throat due to group A Streptococcus) may be considered if symptoms continue to worsen after the first week in the absence of runny nose, cough, or conjunctivitis. Prompt testing and initiation of appropriate antibiotics is important due to the risk of developing rheumatic fever, especially in children.

Epiglottitis is an upper respiratory infection in children that may have a more sudden onset of sore throat, feeling of a lump in the throat, muffled voice, dry cough, very painful swallowing, and drooling.

Upper respiratory infections in the lower part of the upper respiratory tract, such as, laryngotracheitis, are more commonly featured with dry cough and hoarseness or loss of voice. Barking or whooping cough, gagging, rib pain (from severe cough) are other symptoms and signs.

Return to Upper Respiratory Tract Infection

See what others are saying

Comment from: Muggie, 35-44 Female (Patient) Published: October 23

I have an upper respiratory infection. It's been going on for about a week now. I have stuffy and runny nose (don't know how that's possible), tightness in the chest, burning in the chest, slight sore throat from the nasal drain, weakness, headache, and chapped lips. I am taking Mucus and Sinus Relief PE and it is curbing some of the symptoms while I'm at work. At home I drink lots of orange juice, chicken noodle soup, rest and a shot of blackberry brandy. My ribs and all the muscles throughout my torso hurt severely when coughing. A few years back I had an upper respiratory infection (URI) and actually broke a rib loose from my sternum from the severe cough. Do what you can to keep the cough at bay!

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Comment from: yogawoman, 75 or over Female (Patient) Published: June 09

I had just endured 22 hours of flying home from Europe with no sleep, when my throat was sore the night after we got home. It just went downhill from there. I was diagnosed that Monday with acute upper respiratory tract infection and acute laryngitis. I was on Z-Pak and steroids for throat. It did not help, and I went to my primary care physician and was put on another antibiotic, hydrocodone, antihistamine for cough, and 2 inhalers. This is day 15 and getting better, but I still have cough and sometimes sore throat. I am 75, but considered in good health. I have done yoga for 18 years, and work out in gym twice a week. I walked 10 miles a day in Europe. But this really got me. No more flying!

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