Respiratory Tract Infections Prevention And Treatment Options


The common cold is caused by a viral infection of the nose and throat (upper respiratory tract). Even while it might not seem that way, it is typically harmless. Many viral strains have the potential to cause the common cold.

Healthy people should anticipate experiencing two to three colds each year. Infants and young toddlers may have colds more often.

Most people recover from a cold in a week to ten days. Smokers may experience symptoms that linger longer. A typical cold frequently does not require medical attention. Make an appointment with your doctor, however, if your symptoms continue or get worse.


Many viruses can cause a common cold, but rhinoviruses are the most prevalent offenders.

Via your lips, eyes, or nose, a cold virus enters your body. When a sick person coughs, sneezes, or speaks, the virus can spread by droplets in the air.

It can also be transferred by direct hand-to-hand contact with a sick person or by exchanging infected items like towels, toys, phones, or dining utensils. If you touch your eyes, nose, or mouth after such contact, you can catch a cold.

How to check if you have Respiratory Tract Infections?

For adults, a common cold typically does not require medical care. Seek medical assistance if you experience any of the following symptoms that do not get better:

  • Higher than 101.3 F fever (38.5 C) lasting longer than three days
  • Fever that comes back after a time of no fever
  • Breathlessness
  • Wheezing
  • Severe sinus discomfort, headache, or sore throat

For a common cold, your child often does not need medical treatment. But, if your child exhibits any of the following, get medical assistance immediately:

  • Neonates up to 12 weeks old with a fever of 100.4 F (38 C)
  • A child of any age with a rising fever or a fever that lasts longer than two days
  • Severe symptoms, such as a headache, sore throat, or cough
  • Breathing problems or wheezing
  • Ear ache
  • Extreme fussiness
  • Unusual sleepiness
  • Appetite deficit

Risk Factors

Your risk of catching a cold may rise due to the following:

Age. Children under the age of five are most susceptible to catching colds, especially if they often attend childcare facilities.

Weakened immune system. Your risk is increased if you suffer from a chronic illness or have another compromised immune system.

Season. Although colds can strike at any time, they are more common in the fall and winter for both children and adults.

Smoking. If you smoke or are exposed to secondhand smoke, you are more likely to have a cold and to have more severe colds.

Exposure. You are more likely to come into contact with cold-causing viruses if you are around large groups of people, such as at school or on an aeroplane.


One to three days after being exposed to a cold-causing virus, common cold symptoms often manifest themselves. The following symptoms might differ from person to person:

  • A stuffy or runny nose
  • Cough 
  • Congestion
  • Sore throat
  • Slight headache or minor bodily discomfort
  • Sneezing
  • Low-grade fever
  • Feeling generally ill

When a normal cold progresses, the discharge from your nose may begin clear before becoming thicker, yellow, or green. This often does not indicate that you have a bacterial illness.


There is no vaccine to prevent the common cold, but there are things you can do to stop cold viruses from spreading:

Cleanse your hands. Wash your hands with soap and water thoroughly and regularly for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser with at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available. Teach your children the value of cleaning your hands. Avoid using unwashed hands to touch your mouth, nose, or eyes.

Clean up your things. Every day, wipe down and disinfect high-touch areas including worktops in the kitchen and bathroom, light switches, and doorknobs. When someone in your family is sick, this is extremely crucial. Toys for children should be cleaned regularly.

Cover your cough. Sneeze and cough into tissues. Throw away used tissues right away, then wash your hands.

Completely wash your hands. Sneeze or cough into the crook of your elbow if you do not have a tissue, and then wash your hands.

Do not share. Never take a drink or eat with a family member's utensils. Use your glass or disposable cups when you or someone else is unwell. The cup or glass should bear the name of the person who will be drinking from it.

Avoid contact with those who have colds. Keep your distance from somebody who is contagious. Wherever possible, avoid crowds. Avoid touching your lips, nose, and eyes.

Examine the rules of your childcare facility. Search for a childcare facility that has a clear policy on keeping ill children at home and strong sanitary standards.


The common cold cannot be cured. Without medical intervention, the majority of instances of the common cold resolve within a week to 10 days. A cough, though, can remain for a few more days. The finest thing you can do is take care of yourself while your body heals. For instance, stay hydrated, humidify the air, utilize saline nasal rinses, and get enough sleep.

Antibiotics should not be used until there is a bacterial infection since they are useless against cold viruses.

Using over-the-counter (OTC) medicine to lessen fever, body pains, congestion, and cough is one way to treat your symptoms. You can get relief from your symptoms and a reduction in your bad mood by using these therapies. Nonetheless, there are advantages and disadvantages to often-used cold cures

such as cough syrups, decongestants, nasal sprays, and over-the-counter painkillers. Do not offer youngsters over-the-counter cold drugs.


Adults frequently use over-the-counter acetaminophen (Tylenol, others) or other moderate pain medicines like ibuprofen for fever, sore throat, and headache (Advil, Motrin IB, others).

Consider giving your baby or children over-the-counter painkillers like acetaminophen (Tylenol, among others) or ibuprofen to alleviate fever or pain (Advil, Motrin, among others). Some aspirin substitutes are safer.

Do not administer acetaminophen to babies under 3 months old unless they have visited a doctor. Ibuprofen should not be given to children under the age of six months, those who are often throwing up, or those who are dehydrated.

Utilize these to prevent adverse effects, take drugs as soon as possible and adhere to label instructions. If you are uncertain about the recommended dosage, contact your doctor.

Children and teens should not use aspirin. Although aspirin is safe to use in children above the age of three, it should never be administered to children or teens who are experiencing the symptoms of chickenpox or the flu. This is because aspirin has been connected to Reye's syndrome, an uncommon but potentially fatal illness, in these children.

Nasal decongestant sprays

Decongestant drops or sprays can be used by adults for up to five days. Rebound effects might result from prolonged usage. Decongestant drops or sprays should not be used on children under the age of six. Before giving nasal decongestants to children older than 6 years old, see your doctor.

Cough syrups

Cough and cold medications sold over the counter are designed to treat the symptoms, not the underlying illness, of coughs and colds. According to research, there is no evidence that these medications are any more effective in treating colds than inactive medications (placebo).

Follow the guidelines on the package if you take over-the-counter cough and cold medications. Avoid taking two medications that have the same active component, such as an antihistamine, decongestant, or pain reliever. An unintentional overdose might result from using too much of a single component.

Apart from painkillers and fever reducers, over-the-counter medications should not be used to treat coughs and colds in children under the age of six. Cough and cold drugs have potentially dangerous adverse effects, including lethal overdoses in infants under the age of two. 

If your child is under the age of 12, you should think about avoiding the use of these medications. Also, it is not normally advised to give older children cough or cold medications.

Complications of Respiratory Tract Infections

Alongside a cold, you may experience the following conditions:

Acute ear infection (otitis media). This happens when germs or viruses get behind the eardrum. Earaches and the recurrence of a fever after a cold are typical indications and symptoms.

Asthma. Even if you do not have asthma, a cold might cause wheezing. A cold can exacerbate asthma symptoms.

Severe Sinusitis. A persistent cold in adults or children can result in sinus infection, inflammation, and discomfort.

Further infections. A common cold can result in various illnesses such as pneumonia, croup, bronchiolitis, strep throat, and bronchiolitis in children. A doctor must treat these infections.

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Page last reviewed: Apr 7, 2023

Next review due: Apr 7, 2025

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