What is Upper Respiratory Tract Infection?

The tract that passes the air that we breathe in to our lungs is the upper respiratory tract. The upper respiratory tract begins from the nose and consists of nasal passages, sinuses, pharynx and larynx. This tract carries the function of inhaling air in the human body. If any kind of bacteria or some kind of infection can happen to any of the organs, an infectious process will occur in the upper respiratory tract which is called as Upper respiratory tract infection.

What is Upper Respiratory Tract Infection?

There are various names for the infections that occur in the various parts of the upper respiratory tract like:

  • Rhinitis that causes swelling of the nasal cavity.
  • Infection in the sinus or rhinosinusitits.
  • Cold that causes swelling and inflammation of nares, tonsils, pharynx and its parts, uvula.
  • Swelling of the pharynx, uvula and tonsils also pharyngitis.
  • Inflammation of the epiglottis and the upper part of the larynx or epiglottitis.
  • Laryngitis which is swelling of the larynx.
  • Tracheitis or swelling of the trachea.
  • Swelling of both trachea and larynx causing laryngotracheitis.

All the above mentioned upper respiratory tract infections are pretty common and can occur to anyone at any time causing throat pain and breathing problems. Most Americans suffer from any one of these chronic diseases and you often need to consult a doctor for medical help else you will soon be in bed and that will disrupt your daily routine. The seasonal change especially from autumn to winter or winter to summer can cause these illnesses thus people often become careful around these times. The low temperature helps the virus causing these infections to survive and grow more.

Is Upper Respiratory Tract Infection Contagious?

The upper respiratory tract infections are highly contagious in nature. The virus can spread form one person to another due to contact or even due to sneezing or coughing.

Causes of Upper Respiratory Tract Infection

The bacteria enter through the mucus membrane of the nose and then overcome some of the other preventive measures (immunity) that our body applies when there is an attack. These bacteria or viruses becomes resistant to those immunity measures and cause the infection. The viruses also attacks the natural defence mechanism of the human body in their own ways. Sometimes they use toxins to lower the immunity and sometimes they are in the shape of different proteins so that our body fails to recognise them. Some stick to the mucus membrane and start infection there. Thus the pathogens have their own way to defeat the immune system of our body and cause and spread the upper respiratory tract infection. Some of the bacteria enter our body and do not start working immediately. They feed on our body and grow there. This is the incubation time and then they hatch and spread the upper respiratory tract infection. As our body failes to recognise the bacteria, they already gather ways of fighting our immune system.

Some of the pathogens and their incubation periods have been mentioned below:

  • Rhinovirus incubates for 1 to 5 days.
  • Virus that cause influenza incubate for 4 days.
  • Group A streptococci incubate for 1 to 5 days.
  • The virus causing whooping cough can incubate for 7 to 21 days.
  • 7 days incubation for respiratory syncytial virus.
  • 10 days maximum incubation period lies for the virus causing diphtheria.
  • 4 to 6 weeks is the incubation period for Epstein-Barr virus.

Signs and Symptoms of Upper Respiratory Tract Infection

The signs and symptoms of the upper respiratory tract infection are very easily seen and they are caused by the toxins that the virus release in our body and the immunity steps taken by our body to fight those toxins. The usual signs and symptoms are:

  • Blocking of the nose or runny nose is the most common symptom of upper respiratory tract infection.
  • Breathing problems.
  • Discharges from the nose.
  • Sneezing.
  • Coughing and the cough discharge.
  • Sore throat or scratchy throat causing pain.
  • High body temperature or fever.

There are a few other signs and symptoms which are less noticed but can occur during the upper respiratory tract infection:

  • Headache.
  • Bad breath.
  • Unable to smell.
  • Unable to swallow food properly.
  • Sinus attack or sinus pain.
  • Watering eyes.
  • Vomiting.
  • Dizziness.
  • Body pains.
  • Tiredness.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Nausea.
  • Vomiting.

These signs and symptoms for upper respiratory tract infection last for more than a week. But if the symptoms continue for more than a couple of weeks the illness can be as serious as pneumonia or bronchitis. Some infections which are cause by the streptococci virus can show stronger symptoms after the first week where the patient might get rheumatic fever. The infection in the epiglottis swells up the throat and cause serious difficulty in swallowing food or even water. Rough coughs and feeling dizzy are other symptoms of upper respiratory tract infection. Infections in the larynx cause hoarseness in the voice and sometimes the patient is unable to speak. It also causes whooping coughs and pain in the ribs.

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Written, Edited or Reviewed By:

, MD, FFARCSI

Last Modified On: November 3, 2016

Pain Assist Inc.

Pramod Kerkar
  Note: Information provided is not a substitute for physician, hospital or any form of medical care. Examination and Investigation is necessary for correct diagnosis.

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