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How do upper respiratory infections spread?

An upper respiratory infection (URI), often referred to as the common cold, is a viral infection that primarily affects the nose, throat, and sometimes the sinuses and upper airways. It can cause a range of symptoms that vary in intensity from person to person.

Upper respiratory infections are contagious. These infections are primarily caused by viruses, and the viruses responsible for URIs can spread easily from person to person through various means. Contagion occurs through:

  • Direct contact: Physical contact with an infected person, such as shaking hands, hugging, or kissing.

  • Airborne droplets: When an infected person coughs, sneezes, talks, or even breathes, they release tiny droplets into the air. If you inhale these droplets, you can become infected.

  • Contaminated surfaces: Viruses can survive on surfaces for a certain period. If you touch a contaminated surface and then touch your face (mouth, nose, or eyes), you can introduce the virus into your body.

  • Close proximity: Being in close proximity to an infected person, especially in enclosed spaces like classrooms, offices, or public transportation, increases the risk of contagion.

  • Sharing items: Sharing utensils, cups, towels, or personal items with an infected person can lead to transmission.


Prevent the spread of URIs by washing your hands frequently with soap and water, using hand sanitizers, avoiding close contact with sick individuals, and covering your mouth and nose when sneezing or coughing to prevent the release of infectious droplets into the air.

Upper respiratory infection symptoms

An upper respiratory infection (URI) can manifest with various symptoms and signs, often resembling a cold or flu. These include:


What can cause an upper respiratory infection?

An upper respiratory infection (URI) is primarily caused by viruses that infect the nose, throat, and airways. The most common culprits include:

  • Rhinoviruses: These are the leading cause of URI, often responsible for cold-like symptoms.

  • Influenza virus: Influenza, or the flu virus, can also lead to URI symptoms.

  • Coronaviruses: Some strains of coronaviruses, like the common cold coronavirus, can cause URIs.

  • Adenoviruses: These viruses can lead to respiratory infections, including URIs.

  • Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV): Common in young children, RSV can cause URI symptoms and lower respiratory tract infections.

  • Parainfluenza virus: This virus can cause croup and other upper respiratory symptoms.


How do you treat an upper respiratory infection?

Treating an upper respiratory infection involves a combination of rest, self-care measures, and, in some cases, medical intervention. Here's how to manage the symptoms:

Taking preventive measures, such as practicing good hygiene, staying up-to-date on vaccinations, and adopting a healthy lifestyle, can help reduce the risk of contracting upper respiratory infections.

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