Upper respiratory infections (URIs) are some of the most common illnesses we face each year. Did you know that colds, sinus infections, and acute bronchitis are all URIs? And fall/winter is peak season for them.

URIs are surprisingly easy to catch, because airborne germs from a cough or sneeze can travel up to six feet! The key to prevention is knowing the symptoms — in yourself as well as others — so that you can avoid coming in contact with a sick person or spreading illness if you’re under the weather. Washing your hands often is equally important in helping to deter the spread of URIs.

If thick or discolored phlegm comes up when you cough or blow your nose, it’s often a reliable sign that you may be battling more than just a seasonal allergy or passing sniffle. Other URI symptoms generally include:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Tiredness or fatigue
  • Coughing or wheezing
  • Stopped up or runny nose
  • Sore throat or pain when swallowing

Symptoms tend to develop over a few hours. The good news is you have a few ways to get some relief:

  • Place a vaporizer or humidifier in your room while you recover: Moist air helps you breathe — and sleep — better.
  • Drink lots of fluids: When you’re battling a URI, you can easily get dehydrated. (FunFact: hot herbal tea with honey and lemon can help soothe a sore throat; the steam from the cup can help you breathe a little easier too!)
  • Get plenty of rest: Time is a key part of recovery. You also don’t want to overtax your body while it’s working to get well.
  • Treat your headache with an appropriate pain reliever: No need to hurt when you don’t have to. You’ll want to make sure that the type of pain reliever that you use (e.g., aspirin, acetaminophen, ibuprofen, etc.) works best for you and isn’t already contained in any other medications you’re taking.
  • Use a decongestant for a stuffy nose: A decongestant can help open nasal passages and dry up mucus.
  • Avoid cigarette smoke and caffeine: Smoke irritates your upper respiratory system and can be especially bothersome when you have bronchitis. The caffeine in coffee and soft drinks can contribute to dehydration.

The not-so-good news is that URIs can get worse if they linger too long without proper medical attention. For example, bronchitis can lead to pneumonia if not treated promptly. The cause of a URI can be a virus, which is most common, or bacteria, but only a bacterial URI can be treated with antibiotic. Regardless of which type you have, Teladoc can help diagnose and treat your illness. If medication becomes medically necessary, the doctor can send a prescription to the pharmacy that you choose.

As we head into the holiday — and head cold — season, help keep yourself and your family healthy, happy, and well with Teladoc. Our board-certified physicians are available 24/7 by app, web, or phone.

 

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The COVID-19 pandemic is rapidly evolving. While we are continuously reviewing and updating our content, some of the information in this article may not reflect the most up-to-date scientific information. Please visit the online resources provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the World Health Organization (WHO) and your local public health department to stay informed on the latest news, or reach out to Teladoc to speak with one of our board-certified physicians.