4 Most Common Upper Respiratory Infections

Woman sneezing with common upper respiratory infection

There are four common upper respiratory infections that people generally contract: sinus infection (sinusitis), common cold, sore throat (pharyngitis), and laryngitis. MainStreet Family Care is here to help you understand how you contract, diagnose, treat, and avoid these infections. 

What Is An Upper Respiratory Infection? 

Upper respiratory tract infections affect the portion of the respiratory system that is responsible for breathing, namely the nose, throat, and lungs. These infections can cause you to have trouble breathing and generally affect people during the fall and winter months although you can get them at any time. 

Common Upper Respiratory Infections

Most people have or will encounter at least one of the following upper respiratory illnesses in their lifetime. They each have similar symptoms, and treating them is usually straightforward and easy. 

MainStreet Family Care offers diagnosis and treatment for upper respiratory infections in our urgent care services. We would love to help you heal and feel better, fast! 

Sinus Infection

Sinusitis, or a sinus infection, affects the sinuses and is caused by a build-up of mucus in the nasal passages, allowing for bacterial growth. Allergic rhinitis can also lead to this condition. 

Your sinuses run throughout your nose, cheeks, and forehead, meaning you may feel the symptoms all throughout your head. Full symptoms of sinusitis include: 

  • Unusually green mucus
  • Congestion
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Postnasal drip 
  • Pain in the face (such as under the eyes, in the cheeks, or around the nose) 
  • Cough
  • Fever

Symptoms of this condition should not last more than seven days, and if they continue to progress you may be experiencing a bacterial infection. 

Common Cold

Most people experience many common colds throughout their lifetimes as they spread easily. This illness is spread by tiny droplets from already infected people through coughing, sneezing, or even just talking. 

Symptoms of the common cold may vary as there are many different viruses that cause them. Generally, people will experience congestion, headaches, sore throat, fevers, sneezing or coughing, and runny nose when they are dealing with a cold. 


Pharyngitis is also commonly referred to as a sore throat. It can also be directly linked with strep throat, an infection caused by the streptococcus bacteria. People experiencing pharyngitis or strep throat will have symptoms such as: 

  • Pain all throughout the throat
  • Swollen or red tonsils
  • Difficulty talking and swallowing
  • Tender lymph nodes
  • Pain in the ears

If you are having these symptoms, it is important that you get checked for strep. This condition can heal on its own, but it is likely that you will experience severe pain while waiting for it to heal. 


The larynx is also known as your voice box, meaning it enables you to speak. This condition is caused by the larynx becoming inflamed or swollen and usually begins from a virus attacking the uppermost part of your throat. 

Laryngitis is characterized by these symptoms: hoarseness, inability to use your full voice range, and only being able to speak in low tones or whispers. You may also experience a sore throat and fever with this condition. 

It will generally take one to two weeks for your larynx to fully heal from laryngitis, and this condition normally does not require a medical diagnosis or formal treatment. 

How To Treat Upper Respiratory Infections

Treating upper respiratory infections is fairly streamlined as they each affect the same respiratory structures. Common and useful treatment methods include: 

  • Over-the-counter pain medication 
  • Ensuring that you drink plenty of fluids
  • Gargle warm water or salt water for sore throats

Additionally, even though some of these infections will heal on their own, it is likely in your best interest to see a medical provider to make sure you do not need antibiotics. 

Preventing The Spread

Although some of these conditions are not contagious, you may catch other illnesses that directly lead to them. Best practices for reducing the spread of these infections include: 

  • Washing your hands frequently
  • Covering your mouth and nose when you sneeze or cough
  • Staying away from people until your symptoms subside, especially those with compromised immune systems
  • Taking daily vitamins 

Turn To MainStreet Family Care

Concerned you have an upper respiratory infection? MainStreet Family Care can help! 

Register online to visit one of our clinics. This system reduces in-clinic wait times and allows you to wait from anywhere. 

Walk-ins are always welcome in our clinics! Please be aware that we highly recommend registering online ahead of your visit, as walk-ins are added to the same queue as those who register online. Patients are seen in the order in which they registered.