Upper Respiratory Infections

Top 5 Patient Questions About Upper Respiratory Infections

Monday, February 25th, 2013

Winter -- while certainly the season of holidays, friends, and family, it's also a time of year that patients needs to be thinking about their health! Aptly-named the "cold and flu season," these colder winter months are the most common time of year to develop an upper respiratory tract infection.  A condition that can affect anyone -- young or old -- it's important for patients to know what symptoms to watch our for and what types of treatments are available to them.  As a brief introduction, we thought we would answer a few of your most frequently asked questions.  Ready to find out more?

Here is our list of the Top 5 Patient Questions About Respiratory Infections:

  1. What is an upper respiratory infection? An URI is simply an infection of any of the areas of the upper airway.  These include the nasal passages, sinuses, the pharynx, and the larynx.
  2. What are the symptoms of an URI? Common "red flags" of an acute upper respiratory infection include a sore or scratchy throat, nasal congestion, sneezing, trouble swallowing, coughing, and sometimes a fever.  Since these are common to many other conditions, it's important to consult a doctor if you are experiencing one or more of these symptoms.
  3. What causes an URI? Acute upper respiratory infections are caused by the transmission of a virus or bacteria into the upper airway.  As with many other communicable illnesses, it can be transferred simply by contact with someone who is infected.
  4. How can I prevent it? While there is no surefire way to prevent URIs, there are ways to stack the odds in your favor.  Be sure to avoid those who are sick, wash hands frequently and avoid touching your nose or mouth.
  5. How are URIs treated? Treating an URI depends on the nature of the infection -- be it viral or bacterial.  In cases of a viral infection, patients will often be advised simply to rest and drink fluids.  When patients are suffering from a bacterial infection, antibiotics may become necessary.  Read on to learn more about antibiotics for treating upper respiratory infections.  

Are Antibiotics Necessary in the Treatment of an Upper Respiratory Infection?

Antibiotics are used to kill bacteria and hinder their ability to multiply.  An effective treatment for those with a bacterial URI, in cases of a viral infection, antibiotics will often do more harm than good.  Beyond being ineffective against viral infections, patients also put themselves at risk for antibiotic resistance.  This can make it more difficult for patients to fight off an infection later on.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also highlighted this topic, explaining that "Antibiotics Aren't Always the Answer."

"Colds and many other upper respiratory infections, as well as some ear infections, are caused by viruses, not bacteria," explains the CDC.  "If antibiotics are used too often for things they can't treat—like colds or other viral infections—they can stop working effectively against bacteria when you or your child really needs them. Antibiotic resistance ... has been a concern for years and is considered one of the world's most critical public health threats."

Of course, what's most important is this:  If you are seeing any signs of an URI, be sure to visit your physician as soon as possible.  He or she will help determine the underlying cause of your URI and advise you on the best course of treatment.

Board Certified Physician in Astoria

To learn more about Acute Upper Respiratory Tract Infections or any other conditions we treat, contact us today and schedule an appointment.  Our offices are located in Astoria, and we can be reached at (718) 204-7550.  We look forward to hearing from you soon.

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