Upper Respiratory Infection

We’re on the cusp of flu season ending, but you shouldn’t relax just yet. With many upper respiratory infections out there, you still have a high chance of contracting something. The more you are informed, the more likely you will stay healthy throughout the winter season and beyond.

What Causes Upper Respiratory Infections? Bacteria or Viruses?

An upper respiratory infection affects your nose, throat, pharynx, larynx, and bronchi. These kinds of infections are very common as they are highly contagious. The most well known being a cold. URIs can be caused by both viruses and bacterial infections.

Viruses that cause URIs

  • Rhinovirus
  • Adenovirus
  • Coxsackie virus
  • Parainfluenza virus
  • Respiratory syncytial virus
  • Human Metapneumovirus


  • Group A Beta-Hemolytic Streptococci
  • group C Beta-Hemolytic Streptococci
  • Corynebacterium Diphtheriae (diphtheria)
  • Neisseria Gonorrhoeae (gonorrhea)
  • Chlamydia pneumoniae (chlamydia)

What is the Difference Between Bacterial and Viral URIs?

Upper Respiratory Infection

The key difference between bacterial and viral URIs is going to be how to treat them. With the bacterial kind, it is recommended to use antibiotics to stop the infection from multiplying and worsening. For viral infections, antiviral medications can be used, but treatment usually centers around alleviating the symptoms when it comes to URIs.

Types of Acute Upper Respiratory Infections

Besides The common cold, other types of upper respiratory infections exist:

Sinusitis: The inflammation of sinuses

Epiglottitis: The inflammation of the epiglottis, the upper region of the trachea. Its main function is to protect the airway from foreign particles that could harm the lungs. A swollen epiglottis can be concerning as it can block the flow of oxygen into the trachea.

Laryngitis: The inflammation of the larynx which holds the vocal cords.

Bronchitis: The inflammation of the bronchial tubes; the airways that carry air to the lungs.The two main types of bronchitis are acute and chronic. If you feel you might have one of the above conditions, please seek treatment. If left untreated, these conditions can be life threatening.

Common Symptoms

While these illnesses can affect different areas of the upper respiratory tract, they share some common symptoms:

  • Runny Nose
  • Nasal Congestion
  • Sneezing
  • Cough
  • Mucus

However, there are other tell tale signs that you might be coming down with one of these infections such as fever, fatigue, headache, pain during swallowing (sore throat), and wheezing. Head over to your local medical center if your symptoms worsen, persist, or if you develop more symptoms.

How to Avoid a URI

The best way you can avoid this especially contagious illness is by washing your hands thoroughly with soap and water. When washing your hands, you should be scrubbing your hands for at least 20 seconds in order to kill as many harmful germs as possible.You can avoid falling ill by taking the following precautions:

  • Avoid close contact with the source of illness: it can be hard to avoid public places and family members, but the key point here is to avoid contamination as much as possible.
  • The most shared items such as tv remotes, cell phones, and doorknobs should be wiped down with a cloth to remove germs.
  • Cover your mouth for sneezes or coughs (for those who are already infected)
  • Keep your immune system strong. Those with a weak immune system are most likely to contract a respiratory infection. Get plenty of sleep and vitamin C.
  • Avoid touching your nose and eyes as you could be potentially rubbing in infected secretions
  • Stay home as much as possible.

Seek a Doctor

Village Emergency Centers understands that illness can strike any day at anytime. If you are feeling ill with any symptoms associated with an upper respiratory infection, don’t hesitate to stop by any of our 3 locations. Our promise is to offer you the best emergency care in Houston.