Respiratory infections often begin with a viral infection in your nose, windpipe or lungs. Left untreated, infection can spread to the entire respiratory system. Viruses spread easily from one person to another. They can be passed through sneezing, contact and sometimes inhalation. Anyone can get a respiratory infection. Children, older adults and people with weak immune systems are especially at risk.

Infections are categorized into upper respiratory infections and lower respiratory infections. The most common lower respiratory infections are pneumonia and bronchitis, which can be viral or bacterial. Upper respiratory infections include the common cold, sinusitis, croup, pharyngitis and epiglottitis.

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What are the symptoms of respiratory infection?

Common cold symptoms depend on what kind of virus you have, but often include nasal congestion or runniness, scratchy throat, achiness, coughing and sneezing. Upper respiratory infections can include a fever, though usually only in children.

Symptoms of a lower respiratory infection, including pneumonia symptoms, are:

  • Dry cough
  • Persistent fever
  • Chest pain
  • Confusion
  • Headache
  • Abdominal pain
  • Vomiting and nausea
  • Diarrhea

How are respiratory infections treated?

While you can generally treat common colds at home, other infections may need antibiotics. Lower respiratory infections like pneumonia and bronchitis are very serious. If you have symptoms that don’t seem to go away after seven days, seek medical care right away.

Antibiotics shouldn’t be used to treat a common cold. You can take over-the-counter decongestant medicine and pain relievers to help relieve aches and pains. There are some home treatments that could help you feel better if you have a chest or head cold, including:

  • Resting
  • Drinking lots of fluids
  • Eating ginger, garlic and honey (don’t give honey to a child younger than 1)
  • Taking echinacea
  • Taking vitamin C
  • Using vapor rub
  • Using humidity or steam
  • Gargling salt water
  • Consuming probiotics
  • Taking warm baths (Epsom salt and baking soda will reduce aches)

Regularly disinfect hands, toys, doorknobs and other commonly used things to help you avoid viruses that cause some respiratory infections.

If you or your child has symptoms that don’t go away after a week or if you are having trouble breathing, visit your nearest CareNow® urgent care clinic for diagnosis and treatment. You can minimize your wait time with our Web Check-In®.