Get exclusive member benefits & effect social change. Join Today
Anyone who has ever had a cold knows about acute respiratory infections. An acute upper respiratory infection (URI) is a contagious infection of your upper respiratory tract. Your upper respiratory tract includes the nose, throat, pharynx, larynx, and bronchi.
Without a doubt, the common cold is the most well known URI. Other types of URIs include sinusitis, pharyngitis, epiglottitis, and tracheobronchitis. Influenza, on the other hand, is not an upper respiratory infection because it is a systemic illness.
Both viruses and bacteria can cause acute URIs:
The types of URIs refer to the parts of the upper respiratory tract most involved in the infection. In addition to the common cold, there are other types of URIs:
Sinusitis is inflammation of the sinuses.
Epiglottitis is inflammation of the epiglottis, the upper part of your trachea. It protects the airway from foreign particles that could get into the lungs. Swelling of the epiglottis is dangerous because it can block the flow of air into the trachea.
Laryngitis is inflammation of the larynx or voice box.
Inflammation of the bronchial tubes is bronchitis. The right and left bronchial tubes branch off from the trachea and go to the right and left lungs.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, the common cold is the most common cause of doctor visits in the United States. URIs spread from one person to another through aerosol droplets and direct hand-to-hand contact. Risk goes up:
A runny nose, nasal congestion, sneezing, cough, and sputum production are the hallmark symptoms of URIs. Symptoms are caused by inflammation of the mucous membranes in the upper respiratory tract. Other symptoms include:
Most people with URIs know what they have. They may visit their doctor for relief from symptoms. Most URIs are diagnosed by looking at the patient’s medical history and doing a physical exam. Tests that may be used to diagnose URIs are:
URIs are mostly treated for relief of symptoms. Some people benefit from the use of cough suppressants, expectorants, vitamin C, and zinc to reduce symptoms or shorten the duration. Other treatments include:
The best protection against URIs is frequent hand washing with soap and water. Washing your hands reduces exposure to secretions that can spread infection. Other strategies include:
Written by: Verneda Lights
Medically reviewed : George Krucik, MD
Enter your symptoms in our Symptom Checker to find out possible causes of your symptoms. Go.
Enter any list of prescription drugs and see how they interact with each other and with other substances. Go.
Enter its color and shape information, and this tool helps you identify it. Go.
Find information on drug interactions, side effects, and more. Go.