Upper respiratory infection: Symptoms, treatment, and causes – DocGenie

Written by Dr. Rachna Kucheria (MBBS MAMC New Delhi, MD AIIMS New Delhi, MD (Family Medicine) USC California), one of the best general physicians in Delhi NCR.

Upper respiratory infections (URIs) are a common yet often underestimated group of illnesses that affect the nose, throat, and airways. From the familiar common cold to more severe conditions like bronchitis, these infections can disrupt daily life and compromise overall well-being. In this blog post, we will delve into the causes, symptoms, and preventive measures for upper respiratory infections.

Upper Respiratory Infections Symptoms

Nasal Congestion:

One of the primary symptoms of Upper Respiratory Infections is nasal congestion. The inflammation of the nasal passages can lead to a stuffy or runny nose, making it challenging to breathe through the nose.

Sore Throat:

A scratchy or painful throat is a common indication of an upper respiratory infection. The inflammation of the throat can cause discomfort, especially when swallowing.


URIs often trigger a persistent cough. This can manifest as a dry cough or one that produces phlegm, serving as the body’s natural mechanism to clear the respiratory tract.


Frequent and uncontrollable sneezing is a hallmark symptom. The body’s response to the infection or irritants includes a heightened sensitivity that leads to frequent sneezing.


Feeling unusually tired and lethargic is a typical symptom of an upper respiratory infection. The body redirects energy resources to combat the infection, resulting in increased fatigue during the course of the illness


In some cases, individuals with upper respiratory infections may experience a low-grade fever. This is the body’s natural response as the immune system works to combat the invading virus


Headaches can accompany upper respiratory infections due to sinus pressure and congestion. The inflammation in the nasal passages and sinuses can lead to discomfort and pain.

Watery Eyes:

Irritation of the eyes, accompanied by excessive tearing, can occur as a result of the body’s immune response to the infection.


Some individuals with upper respiratory infections may experience earaches. This can be due to the interconnectedness of the respiratory and ear systems.

Difficulty Sleeping:

Discomfort from symptoms such as nasal congestion, coughing, and sore throat can make it challenging to sleep well, contributing to a sense of overall fatigue.

It’s important to note that these symptoms can vary in intensity from person to person, and not everyone with an upper respiratory infection will experience all of them. Additionally, while these infections are often caused by viruses, bacterial infections can also present with similar symptoms. If symptoms persist or worsen, seeking medical advice is advisable for proper diagnosis and treatment.

Upper Respiratory Infections Treatment :

Rest and Adequate Sleep:

One of the most effective treatments for upper respiratory infections is giving your body the rest it needs. Adequate sleep allows the immune system to function optimally, aiding in the body’s natural ability to fight off the infection.


Staying well-hydrated is crucial during an upper respiratory infection. Drinking plenty of fluids helps thin mucus, making it easier to expel and relieving symptoms like throat irritation and cough.

Over-the-Counter Decongestants:

Decongestants can help reduce nasal congestion by constricting blood vessels in the nasal passages. These medications are available over the counter and come in various forms, such as nasal sprays or oral tablets.

Pain Relievers:

Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen, can help alleviate symptoms like sore throat, headache, and fever associated with upper respiratory infections. It’s important to follow the recommended dosage guidelines.


Using a humidifier adds moisture to the air, which can ease nasal congestion and soothe a sore throat. Humidifiers are especially beneficial in dry or winter climates.

Saline Nasal Sprays:

Saline nasal sprays provide a natural way to moisturize nasal passages and relieve congestion. They are non-medicated and can be used multiple times a day.

Warm Saltwater Gargle:

Gargling with warm saltwater can help soothe a sore throat and reduce inflammation. This simple and effective home remedy can be done several times a day.

Antiviral Medications (Prescribed by a Doctor):

In cases where the upper respiratory infection is caused by a viral strain like influenza, antiviral medications may be prescribed by a healthcare professional. These medications can help reduce the severity and duration of the illness.

Avoiding Irritants:

Steering clear of tobacco smoke, air pollution, and other respiratory irritants can prevent further irritation to the respiratory tract and promote a faster recovery.

Proper Nutrition:

Consuming a well-balanced diet rich in vitamins and minerals supports overall immune function. During an upper respiratory infection, maintaining proper nutrition is essential for a speedy recovery.

It’s important to note that while these treatments can provide relief for mild upper respiratory infections, consulting with a healthcare professional is advisable, especially if symptoms persist, worsen, or if there are underlying health concerns. Additionally, proper hygiene practices, such as frequent handwashing, can help prevent the spread of upper respiratory infections to others.

Upper Respiratory Infection Causes

Viral Infections:

The most common cause of Upper Respiratory Infections (URIs) is viral infections. Rhinoviruses, influenza viruses, adenoviruses, and coronaviruses are among the many viruses that can lead to upper respiratory infections.

Bacterial Infections:

While less common, bacteria can also be responsible for URIs. Streptococcus bacteria, for example, can cause strep throat, contributing to upper respiratory infections.

Environmental Irritants:

Exposure to irritants in the environment, such as tobacco smoke, air pollution, and allergens, can irritate the respiratory tract and make individuals more susceptible to upper respiratory infections.

Weakened Immune System:

A compromised immune system increases the risk of developing URIs. Individuals with weakened immune systems, such as the elderly, young children, and those with chronic health conditions, are more susceptible.

Close Contact with Infected Individuals:

URIs are highly contagious and can spread through respiratory droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Close contact with infected individuals, especially in crowded places, increases the risk of transmission.

Poor Hygiene Practices:

Inadequate hand hygiene, such as not washing hands regularly, can facilitate the spread of viruses that cause upper respiratory infections. Touching the face, especially the eyes, nose, and mouth, with contaminated hands can introduce the virus into the body.

Low Humidity:

Low humidity levels in the environment can dry out the mucous membranes in the respiratory tract, making it easier for viruses to enter and cause infections. Using a humidifier can help maintain optimal humidity levels.

Seasonal Changes:

Certain viruses, like influenza viruses, tend to be more active during specific seasons, such as fall and winter. Seasonal changes can influence the prevalence of upper respiratory infections.

Chronic Respiratory Conditions:

Individuals with chronic respiratory conditions, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or asthma, may be more susceptible to upper respiratory infections due to compromised respiratory function and weakened defenses.

Stress and Fatigue:

Prolonged stress and fatigue can weaken the immune system, making individuals more susceptible to infections, including upper respiratory infections. Adequate rest and stress management are essential for maintaining a robust immune response.

It’s important to note that multiple factors can contribute to the development of upper respiratory infections, and often, a combination of these causes may be involved. Taking preventive measures, such as practicing good hygiene, maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and avoiding close contact with infected individuals, can help reduce the risk of upper respiratory infections


Upper Respiratory Infections are a prevalent health concern, affecting people of all ages. While they are generally self-limiting and resolve on their own, proper care and attention to symptoms can help manage discomfort and expedite recovery. By understanding the symptoms, treatment options, and underlying causes of URIs, individuals can take proactive measures to prevent and mitigate the impact of these common infections on their respiratory health. If symptoms persist or worsen, seeking medical advice is crucial to rule out any complications and ensure proper care.

If you have any concerns or queries about Upper Respiratory Infections consult a highly experienced general physician on DocGenie. All our GPs are available for online video sessions. With DocGenie you can get quality medical help from the comfort of your home, in a cost effective way.

About the Author

Dr. Rachna Kucheria is one of the best general physicians in Delhi NCR. She is a US-trained Physician (Family Practice) on the lines of the old-fashioned ‘Family Doctor’ we grew up with and hope to find again. Her emphasis on early, accurate diagnosis; appropriate (few) medicines; and clear patient communication, sets her apart as one of the most trusted physicians in Delhi. She is licensed to practice medicine both in India & California.