Skip to main content

Upper Respiratory Infection

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Feb 4, 2024.

What is an upper respiratory infection?

An upper respiratory infection is also called a cold. It can affect your nose, throat, ears, and sinuses. You are more likely to get a cold in the winter. Your risk is higher if you smoke cigarettes or have allergies, such as hay fever.

What causes a cold?

A cold is caused by a virus. Many viruses can cause a cold, and each is contagious. A virus may be spread to others through coughing, sneezing, or close contact. A virus can also stay on objects and surfaces. You can become infected if you touch the object or surface and then touch your eyes, mouth, or nose.

What are the signs and symptoms of a cold?

Cold symptoms are usually worst for the first 3 to 5 days. You may have any of the following:

How is a cold treated?

Colds are caused by viruses and do not get better with antibiotics. Most people get better in 7 to 14 days. You may continue to cough for 2 to 3 weeks. The following may help decrease your symptoms:

How can I manage a cold?

What can I do to prevent the common cold?

Call your local emergency number (911 in the US) if:

When should I seek immediate care?

When should I call my doctor?

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 healthcare providers 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.

© Copyright Merative 2023 Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.