Upper respiratory tract infections Definition:
Exposure to cold temperatures, whether indoors or outside, can cause serious health problems. Infants and the Elderly are particularly at risk, but anyone can be affected. During the winter season, risks of cold-weather related illnesses particularly Upper respiratory tract infection URTIs increases. Therefore, precautionary measures must be taken to avoid being getting affected by the extreme cold weather conditions during the winter season.
- An upper respiratory tract infection, or cold, is a viral infection of the air passages leading to the lungs. It is responsible for a tremendous amount of illnesses and loss of time from work. A cold can be spread to others, especially during the first 3 or 4 days. It also has complications. Antibiotics are not helpful in colds unless there is a secondary bacterial infection such as an ear infection, sinusitis, or bronchitis. A cold usually clears up in a few days. However, you may be sick for several days or have a cough lasting several weeks.
- The symptoms of upper respiratory tract infections include nasal stuffiness and dripping, headache, feeling of heaviness, sore throat, dry cough, slight eye redness, low-grade fever, muscle aches and fatigue.
- Following Home care Instructions help to relieve cold symptoms and keep the secretions loose so that it comes out more easily. Decongestants reduce swelling in nasal passages while allowing secretions out.
(a) Bed rest
(b) Increasing fluid intake
(c) Steam Inhalation
(d) Using oral decongestants and throat lozenges
(e) Using nose spray decongestants (do not use for more than 3 days)
(f) Taking Tablet Paracetamol or Brufen for pain and fever
(g) To prevent the spread of colds to other family members, wash your hands often, especially after coughing or touching your nose or mouth. Use disposable tissues instead of handkerchiefs
(h) Antihistamine/decongestant combinations are the most effective remedy. The antihistamines may cause fatigue. Persons with hypertension must be careful with the use of these since they can increase blood pressure
Seek Medical advice if one has following symptoms: –
(a) A high fever above 102.0° F or if the fever lasts more than 2 days & you have severe pain
(b) Severe pain or you develop sore muscles, stiff neck, or a severe headache not controlled with medications
(c) Dehydration develops
(d) Shortness of breath
(e) Repeated vomiting
(f) Mucous coming from nose turns yellow or green. The eyes are red and matted with a yellow discharge
(g) Earache, sore throat, or rash
(h) A cough which is producing green, yellowish, or pus-like sputum
(j) You feel you are getting worse rather than better.
Following measures are suggested for prevention of Upper respiratory tract infections URTIs
(a) Reducing susceptibility Upper respiratory tract infections:
- Breastfeeding: The practice of breastfeeding transfers protective antibodies through the mother’s milk to newborns, passively immunizing babies to numerous pathogens.
- Smoking: Stopping smoking and reducing exposure to passive smoke may reduce the incidence of URTI.
- Nutrition: Adequate nutrition is required for overall health and optimal immune function. Eating fruits and vegetables each day is commonly recommended. Various vitamins and minerals are necessary for immunity. Obtaining nutrients from food may have more nutritional benefit than taking individual supplements.
- Exercise: Moderate exercise may result in positive, transient changes in immune function.
- Stress: Stress has deleterious effects on the immune system. Measures to reduce stress may include changing schedules and responsibilities, increasing time spent doing relaxing activities, and increasing sleep time.
(b) Preventing the spread of Upper respiratory tract infection:
- Hand washing: This is the mainstay of reducing the risk of contracting a URTI. Wash the hands for 20 seconds with ordinary soap and water; include all surfaces of the hands, such as in between the fingers and around the nail bed where debris may accumulate. People should wash their hands before eating and preparing meals, after toileting, after changing diapers or handling other waste, and after coughing or sneezing. During the cold season, people should wash their hands frequently and avoid touching unwashed hands to their nose and mouth. Use of alcohol-based hand sanitizers is acceptable when soap and water are not available. Avoid contact with secretions of infected persons. Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue or upper sleeve.
- Cleaning: Rhinoviruses can survive for as long as 3 hours on skin and fomites, such as telephones, door handles, and stair railings. Regular cleaning of environmental surfaces with a disinfectant may reduce the spread of infection.
- Contacts: Patients with URTI should reduce contact with others to avoid the spread of infection. Adults may be infectious from the day before symptoms begin through approximately 5 days after the onset of illness. Children may shed virus for several days before their illness begins, and they may remain infectious for up to 10 days after symptom onset.