Viral upper respiratory infections (URI), also known as the common cold, can hit us in different degrees of severity and cause uncomfortable symptoms in the ears, sinuses, throat and nose. It’s one of the most common illnesses, leading to more doctor visits and school/work absences than any other illness. When a cold hits, you can’t afford to wait until Monday morning to be seen by a doctor. That’s why at eMedical Urgent Care we offer convenient hours; our weekend doctor’s office will see you when you need it most.
What is Acute Upper Respiratory Infection?
Acute Upper Respiratory Infections are common in adults and in children alike and can happen any time of the year. It’s estimated that during a one-year period, people in the U.S. will suffer 1 billion colds. That’s a lot of sniffles! This contagious virus of your upper respiratory tract (including the nose, throat, pharynx, larynx, and bronchi) causes inflammation and swelling of the mucus membrane lining of the nose and throat. It can be the result of more than 200 different viruses; however, the rhinovirus causes the majority of all colds.
Who is at Risk for an Acute URI?
- Those with a weakened immune system are at a higher risk to catch a cold.
- Most children will develop at least six to eight colds a year.
- People who are in hospitals, institutions, schools and daycare centers have increased risk because of close contact.
- Colds may occur less frequently after the age of 6.
- Adults get colds about 2 to 4 times a year.
When is the “Cold” Season?
Seasons with low humidity tend to increase the risk of catching an acute upper respiratory infection. Fall and winter (September to March) is the typical cold and flu season. People are more likely to be inside (in close quarters) with the low humidity indoor heating that favors survival of many viruses. Dry nasal passages can also increase vulnerability to infections.
What Causes URI?
The common cold is a contagious illness that can be caused by a number of different viruses. You can catch it from another person who is infected with the virus. This happens if you physically touch that person or if you touch a surface (phone, doorknob, or table) that the infected individual touched and then touch your nose or mouth. You can also catch it if you’re near someone who sneezes into the air. When the virus enters your body, it attaches to the lining of your nose or throat and causes a reaction. The body’s immune system (the body’s defense system) responds to this foreign virus by:
- Increasing mucus production (runny nose)
- Swelling of the lining of the nose (congestion and difficulty breathing)
- Causing irritation in the nose (sneezing)
- Increasing mucus drainage down the throat (coughing)
Prevention is key. URIs spread from one person to another through aerosol droplets and direct hand-to-hand contact. Amazingly, about 80% of contagious diseases are transmitted by touch. Your best protection from the common cold and flu is frequent hand washing.
Vaccination may also help prevent URIs, mostly against Influenza viruses, Adenoviruses, Measles, Rubella, Streptococcus pneumoniae, Haemophilus influenzae, Diphtheria, Bacillus anthracis, and Bordetella pertussis.
Signs and Symptoms or URI
Symptoms of a cold can start from 1 to 3 days after contact. Usually the symptoms last one to two weeks. Symptoms may include:
- Trouble sleeping
- Low grade fever
- Stuffy or runny nose
- Scratchy throat
- Watery eyes
- Sore throat and cough
Since the symptoms of the common cold may resemble other conditions or medical problems, it’s important to consult with a physician for a diagnosis.
Treatment for URI
It’s important to remember that the common cold does not have a cure. Antibiotics may not necessarily treat the infection, but medications can help to relieve the symptoms. Some people benefit from cough suppressants, expectorants, vitamin C, zinc, nasal decongestants, steam inhalation, salt water gargling and acetaminophen to help reduce fever, aches and pains. If the infection is bacterial, such as sinusitis or strep, medical intervention is required.
Do I need an Appointment at eMedical Urgent Care?
After work, or on weekends, we‘re here. Our convenient walk-in hours are designed to fit your schedule. If you or your child becomes ill, don’t wait. Our experienced providers can diagnose and treat your urgent conditions quickly and expertly. Come see us for common illnesses, ailments, injuries and work-related issues. No appointment needed.