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, poor smelling sensation (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 presenting features.

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See what others are saying

Comment from: Pebbles, 55-64 Female (Patient) Published: March 31

I can deal with the runny nose, cough, headache and chest pain, but the fatigue is unbelievable. My symptoms of upper respiratory infection started 4 weeks ago, so I hope I get better soon. Steroid shot, antibiotics Z Pak and then doxycycline, and decongestants haven"t helped at all. I am hoping that the healing process is happening but I can"t tell that it is.

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Comment from: Ronnie, 45-54 Male (Patient) Published: April 11

I have a respiratory infection that was so bad that it caused me to have an acute bronchitis as well. Doctors treating me were reluctant to give me an antibiotic drug but needed to kill off the infection. The antibiotic produced additional phlegm, and thus coughing, which I didn"t need more of, because the results of the coughing were chest pain. Time is the cure here, I had to take a whole week off from work. I am in strict bed rest. Hope I don't have COPD.

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