Upper Respiratory Infection Pathophysiology, Symptoms and Treatment

Published: 27th May 2010
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Upper respiratory infection, or URI, is an acute illness also known as the common cold. It is most often due to a bacterial or viral invasion of the body, that enters through the respiratory system.


URIs characteristically attack the mucosal lining the upper respiratory airway. It is spread by coming into contact with secretions from an infected person, or by the water droplet nuclei produced when a person coughs or sneezes into the environment. This is why covering your mouth when coughing, and covering the face when sneezing is important to prevent the spread of upper respiratory infections to others.

Once a pathogen enters the body, it must overcome particular barriers before causing disease. These barriers include:

- Nose hair

- Mucus

- Cells with cilia located in the lower part of the respiratory tract

- Stomach acids

These hurdles work on the premise to ensnare the alien intruders to minimize the percentage of acquiring cold or flu. Basal Respiratory Passage have cells containing cilia that catch and fetch pathogens to pharynx, from where they are gulped down and brought forth to the stomach. This is where they get completely destroyed by the various digestive juices that are present in the stomach.

Your throat lumps and tonsils:

The adenoids and tonsils help to defend against disease causing pathogens due to their immune cells that respond to foreign invaders. These cells include: Macrophages, Monocytes, Neutrophils and Eosinophils.

The normal flora of the nasopharyngeal tract, which include staph and strept also help to protect against pathogens. Patients with impaired immune systems, such as HIV, are at particular risk for infection and illness because their immune systems are unable to cope.

Conversely, pathogens have their own protection to fight back. They have the ability to manufacture toxins and proteases, as well as the ability to form capsules to prevent annihilation by phagocytic cells.

Warming periods are different for different sort of pathogens. Nasal viruses and common cold may take about 5 days to warm up. Pertussis is a serious kind which may eat up 10 to 21 days before manifesting itself. Epstein-Barr warming time may be around 42 days.

What kinds of symptoms are witnessed during upper respiratory infection?

People who have never suffered from URIor upper respiratory infection are affected by following manifestations:

- Runny nose

- Head congestion - Feels like there is a hug cork jammed into the middle of your face

- Nasal congestion - Caused by swollen nasal passages that have slammed completely shut

- Chest congestion - Bronchial airways clogged with mucus

- Coughing

- Sneezing

- Sore, scratchy throat

- Hoarseness

- Fever


Treatment for URI is to reduce symptoms. Most colds and flu are caused by viruses, against which antibiotics have no power. Antibiotics work against bacterial infections only. If you have a URI, there are over-the-counter medications for cough, runny nose, congestion, and fever to help minimize symptoms and help you to feel better.


Jared Wright is the webmaster of Clivir.com, the well-known free learning community site. You can find information on free learning community and asthma medication side effect.

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