At Cathedral Medical Clinic, we offer urgent care services for non-life-threatening injuries and illnesses, allowing our patients to meet with their physicians when they need their attention the most. People typically go to walk-in clinics when they are unable to wait for an appointment with their primary care physician.
Upper Respiratory Infections
Upper Respiratory Infections are common illnesses that can happen to anyone at any time. They are among the common reasons why people visit a doctor. They are also one of the common diseases that make people miss school or work.
Definition of Upper Respiratory Infections
The larynx, pharynx, nasal passages and sinuses are included in the upper respiratory tract. URI (Upper respiratory infection) is an infection of the upper respiratory tract that may be caused by bacteria or viruses. Examples of such illnesses include:
Sinusitis/rhino sinusitis which is infection or inflammation of one or multiple sinuses
Rhinitis which is inflammation within the nasal cavity
Common cold/ nasopharyngitis which is inflammation within the nasal cavity, pharynx, uvula, hypopharynx, and tonsils
Pharyngitis which is inflammation involving the uvula, pharynx, and tonsils
Epiglottitis which is inflammation of epiglottis or upper part of larynx
Laryngitis which is inflammation of larynx
Laryngotracheitis which is inflammation of larynx accompanied by tracheal inflammation
Tracheitis which is inflammation of the windpipe (trachea)
Causes of Upper Respiratory Infections
Bacteria and viruses are the main cause of an upper respiratory tract infection. They cause illnesses by directly invading and damaging the mucous membrane or mucosa that lines the inner wall of the upper respiratory tract.
Nevertheless, the human body has developed various immunological countermeasures against such attacks on the upper respiratory tract. These measures include
Hair lining the nasal cavity to trap debris and invading organisms.
Mucus on the wall of the upper airway to engulf debris and microorganisms.
Cilia (minute, hair-like structures) along the wall of the trachea to remove foreign invaders out of the respiratory tract.
Adenoids and tonsillar lymph nodes that produce specialized cells and antibodies to destroy invading microbes.
When bacteria, viruses, and other invading microbes overcome these protective immunological defenses, they cause disease by physically destroying upper airway structures and by producing toxins that cause respiratory infections.
Common microbes that cause upper respiratory tract infection include:
Respiratory syntactical virus RSV
The time between microbial entry and the manifestations of illness is called the incubation time. For most upper respiratory infections, the incubation time is about a week.
Symptoms of Upper Respiratory Infections
Common symptoms and signs of an upper respiratory tract infection include:
Nasal congestion with may lead to mouth breathing
Nasal discharge of varying color including clear, white, yellow or green
Pain and difficulty with swallowing
Some people may also experience:
Impaired sense of smell
Itchy watery eyes (conjunctivitis)
Vomiting and/or nausea
Unlike lung infection, most upper respiratory infections are self-limiting; the symptoms tend to go away on their own after some time usually between 3 days and two weeks.
Is Upper Respiratory Tract Infection Contagious?
Most upper respiratory infections are categorized as common communicable diseases (types of illnesses that are easily transmissible from one person to another.) This makes a good number of upper respiratory infections quite contagious.
You can get an upper respiratory tract infection by:
Inhalation of respiratory droplets that have been coughed up or sneezed out by a person with an upper respiratory tract infection
Touching your mouth or nose with an object or hand that has been exposed to infection causing virus.
Risk Factors for Upper Respiratory Infections
Anyone can contract an upper respiratory tract infection. However, the risk of falling ill is notably increased in people who:
Are in close physical contact with persons who’ve got a URI.
Have poor practices of hand washing especially those who fail to wash their hands after contacting a person infected with a URI.
Interact with many children in a closed group setting including schools and child daycare centers.
Come into contact with many individuals in a closed group setting such as when traveling, on tours and in cruises.
Smoke or are exposed to second-hand smoke (there is a direct relationship between smoke of tobacco and lung infections).
Work in hospitals, or other healthcare facilities
Have weekend immunity due to conditions such as HIV, medications, organ transplant, copd, long-standing use of steroids and congenital immune deformities among others.
Have anatomical abnormalities due to conditions such as trauma on the face and upper respiratory tract, nasal polyps, etc.
When should you see A Doctor?
Most upper respiratory infections are easy to treat and manage at home. However, it is highly advised that you see a professional healthcare provider if:The symptoms persist for several weeks.
The illness appears to get worse and more severe.
Your breathing is so compromised that you have difficulty in breathing.
You have difficulty in swallowing.
You suspect pneumonia or lung cancer symptoms.
The upper respiratory tract infection recurs on several occasions in a month.
Hospital admission is recommended for severe upper respiratory infections that cause:
Difficulty in respiration with poor oxygen delivery to the body thereby causing serious hypoxia
Worsened shortness of breath (Indicates emphysema and signs lung infection)
Body weakness and lethargy
Treating Upper Respiratory Infections
As indicated earlier, most upper respiratory infections are self-limiting. Therefore, most do not require any specific treatment.
Nevertheless, the following medications are commonly used to treat URIs:
Acetaminophen (Tylenol) to relieve fever
Ibuprofen and other NSAIDs to alleviate fever and body aches
Nasal ipratropium to minimize nasal discharge
Cough suppressants to diminish coughing
Decongestants, g. pseudoephedrine to relieve nasal congestion
Home Remedies for Upper Reparatory Infections
Take warm drinks, g. hot chocolate, milk, and tea
Breathe in steamed air; for instance in a shower
Use a humidifier to create humid air in your room
Stay away from air that’ cold and dry
Eat honey to reduce cough
Use nasal saline water to ease nasal congestion
Lozenges and salt gurgles reduce throat soreness, irritation, and dryness
Apply warm pack to your face to ease nasal congestion
Stay hydrated to replace fluids lost due to illness
The typical outlook for upper respiratory infections with no lung infection symptoms is good. Most of the illnesses will resolve within a few days. However, consult a professional health care specialist in case your condition is serious or when it seems to deteriorate.
Ear infection occurs more commonly in children in comparison to adults. Unlike ear infection in children, which is usually minor and get better quickly ear infection in adults usually indicate a more serious medical problem.
What are Ear Infection Symptoms?
There exist three main kinds of infections of ear corresponding to the 3 parts of ear: outer, middle and inner.
Inner Ear Infection
A case of inner ear infection is actually a case of inner ear inflammation, instead of actual infection. The symptoms and signs of ear infection include ear pain, dizziness, vomiting and nausea. Inner ear problems may indicate a serious condition including meningitis.
Middle Ear Infection
Middle ear is situated directly behind the eardrum. In medical terms infection of middle ear is referred to as otitis media. The main cause of middle ear infection is the trapped fluid in ear (middle ear) that results in the bulging of the eardrum. The middle ear infection symptoms are earache, a sense of fullness in ear, blocked ear and drainage of fluid from your ear. Middle ear infection may also cause fever and some trouble in hearing.
Outer Ear Infection
That part of the ear which extends outside from the eardrum to out of the head is the outer ear. Medically, infection of outer ear is also referred to as otitis externa. The infection often begins as a rash that itches. The other signs of ear infection are ear pain, and tenderness, redness and swelling in ear.
Causes of Ear Infection
The main cause of an ear infection is bacteria. However, whether your middle ear or outer ear will get infected depends on the mode of infection.
Causes of Middle Ear Infection
The cause of middle ear infection is usually a respiratory problem such as common cold. The respiratory infection travels to either one or both of the ears via the Eustachian tubes. These tubes connect your ears to back of throat and nose. Due to infection these tubes may get irritated and swell. As a result of swelling the fluid inside them can’t drain properly leading to building up of fluid in ear.
Causes of Outer Ear Infection
Infection of the outer ear is referred to as swimmer’s ear. This is because it usually begins due to water which remains in the ear after bathing or swimming. The moisture due to this water helps bacteria to grow in the ear. If you irritate or scratch outer lining of ear by putting some objects or your fingers in the ear, an ear infection due to bacteria may occur.
Risk Factors for Ear Infection
Children who fall in the age group of 6 months to 2 years have an increased risk of getting an ear infection in comparison to adults because they have smaller and horizontal Eustachian tubes. Moreover, their immune systems are not developed fully.
If as an adult you have Eustachian tubes that are small or horizontal, then your risk of developing an infection of ear is increased.
Exposure to secondhand smoke and lots of pollution also increases your risk of developing an ear infection.
The risk of ear infection is increased during the winter and fall when flu and colds are prevalent. Individuals who suffer from seasonal allergies have an increased risk when the environmental pollen counts are high.
Bottle-fed babies particularly who are fed in a position of lying down are more prone to develop ear infection in comparison to breast fed babies.
What is Ear Infection Treatment?
Ear infection treatment depends on the type of infection you suffer from. Antibiotics may be required in many people suffering from outer and middle ear infections.
Treatment for Middle Ear Infection
Oral antibiotics may be prescribed for the ear infection. You may also be given antibiotics to apply to the affected area with ear infection drops. Anti inflammatory medicines and pain killers may also be given to manage ear problems.
Decongestant, antihistamines or nasal steroids may also be given if you are suffering from allergy or cold symptoms.
Treatment for Outer Ear Infections
You should carefully clean the outer ear. Then apply anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial ear infection medicine on the ear. In case of bacterial infection you may be given antibiotics.
Home Remedies for Ear Infection
You can treat mild swimmer’s ear cases by using ear drops (non-prescription). You can make the ear drops for ear infection either at your home or buy them over-the-counter. A simple ear drops for pain may be made at home by mixing half teaspoon of white vinegar with half teaspoon of rubbing alcohol. You can use a couple of drops of this ear drops in your ear and it will help in drying out the outer ear canal and aid in the process of healing.
You can use a warm compress to help relieve pain and pressure in the affected ear.
Prevention of Ear Infection
Quit smoking and avoid exposure to secondhand smoke.
Wash and clean your hands regularly and avoid exposure to people suffering from upper respiratory infections.
Keep your vaccines up to date.
Avoid allergic triggers.
Ensure to dry both your ears after bathing or swimming.