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Upper respiratory tract infection

Definition
  • Infections affecting the components of the upper respiratory tract, including the nasal passages, pharynx, and larynx.
Etiology
  • Viruses: Rhinovirus, coronavirus, adenovirus, influenza virus, parainfluenza virus, respiratory syncytial virus.
  • Bacteria: Less common, includes Streptococcus pyogenes.
Clinical Features
  • Rhinorrhoea or nasal congestion.
  • Sore throat.
  • Cough (typically dry).
  • Fever and malaise (more common in children).
  • Hoarseness or loss of voice (laryngitis).
Differential Diagnosis
  • Influenza: Sudden onset, higher fever, muscle aches.
  • Epiglottitis: Rapid onset, high fever, drooling, difficulty swallowing.
  • Tonsillitis: Throat pain, swollen tonsils, possible exudates.
  • Mononucleosis: Fatigue, lymphadenopathy, atypical lymphocytes.
Management
  • Primarily symptomatic: Rest, hydration, and over-the-counter pain relievers (e.g., paracetamol).
  • Antibiotics are generally not indicated unless bacterial etiology is confirmed or suspected.
  • Nasal decongestants can be used for short-term relief.
  • Avoid antibiotics to prevent resistance and unnecessary side effects unless specifically indicated.
Prevention
  • Hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette (e.g., covering mouth/nose during coughing/sneezing).
  • Avoidance of close contact with sick individuals.
  • Regular cleaning of surfaces.
Complications
  • Otitis media (middle ear infection).
  • Sinusitis.
  • Laryngitis.
  • Lower respiratory tract infections such as bronchitis or pneumonia, especially in immunocompromised individuals.
Prognosis
  • Most URTIs are self-limiting and resolve within 7-10 days.
  • Seek medical attention for severe symptoms or if symptoms persist beyond expected duration.

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