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Upper Respiratory Infection, Ambulatory Care

An upper respiratory infection

is also called a common cold. It can affect your nose, throat, ears, and sinuses.

Common symptoms include the following:

  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Sneezing and coughing
  • Sore throat or hoarseness
  • Red, watery, and sore eyes
  • Tiredness or restlessness
  • Chills and fever
  • Headache, body aches, or sore muscles

Seek immediate care for the following symptoms:

  • Headaches or a stiff neck
  • Bright lights hurt your eyes
  • Chest pain or trouble breathing

Treatment for an upper respiratory infection

may include any of the following:

  • Decongestants help decrease nasal congestion and improve your breathing. Do not use decongestant sprays for more than a few days.
  • Cough suppressants help decrease coughing. Ask your healthcare provider which type of cough medicine is best for you. Some cough medicines need a doctor's order.
  • NSAIDs , such as ibuprofen, help decrease swelling, pain, and fever. This medicine is available with or without a doctor's order. NSAIDs can cause stomach bleeding or kidney problems in certain people. If you take blood thinner medicine, always ask your healthcare provider if NSAIDs are safe for you. Always read the medicine label and follow directions.

Care for an upper respiratory infection:

  • Rest until your fever is gone or you feel better.
  • Drink liquids as directed to prevent dehydration. You may need to drink 8 to 10 cups of liquid each day. Good liquids to drink include water, ginger ale, tea, or fruit juices.
  • Gargle with warm salt water to help your sore throat feel better. Mix ¼ teaspoon salt with 1 cup warm water. You may also suck on hard candy or throat lozenges.
  • Saline nasal drops help loosen your nasal congestion. They can be bought without a doctor's order.
  • Take a warm bath or shower to help decrease body aches and help you breathe easier.
  • Use a cool-mist humidifier to increase air moisture and make it easier for you to breathe.

Prevent the spread of germs:

  • Avoid others for the first 2 to 3 days of your cold. Germs are easily spread during this time.
  • Do not share food, drinks, towels, or personal items with others.
  • Wash your hands often. Use soap and water. Wash your hands after you use the bathroom, change a child's diapers, or sneeze. Wash your hands before you prepare or eat food. Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you sneeze or cough.

Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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