Most upper respiratory infections cause an illness that lasts for less than 6 days and resolves without treatment. The goal of treatment in upper respiratory infection falls exclusively on providing symptom relief. Antibiotics do not treat viruses that cause upper respiratory infections.
General measures to treat upper respiratory infections include rest, encouraging fluids, and acetaminophen or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications for fever control. A vast number of nonprescription medications are available to relieve other bothersome cold symptoms such as, nasal congestion, sneezing, cough, and sore throat.
Treatment options for upper respiratory infections include:
- Acetaminophen for pain and fever control
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications for pain and fever control:
- Ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil, Nuprin, NeoProfen)
- Ketoprofen (Actron, Orudis, Oruvail)
- Naproxen (Anaprox, Naprosyn, Aleve)
- Pseudoephedrine (Actifed, Afrin, Sudafed)
- Phenylephrine (Neo-Synephrine)
- Oxymetazoline (Allerest, Afrin, Dristan, Chlorphed)
- Nonprescription medications for cough:
- Short-acting antihistamine medications for runny nose:
- Diphenhydramine (Benadryl, Benylin)
- Chlorpheniramine (Aller-Chlor, Chlo-Amine, Chlor-Trimeton, Telachlor)
- Brompheniramine maleate (Bromphen, Dimetane Extentabs, Nasahist B)
- Long-acting antihistamine medications for runny nose:
For more information:
Colds Questions For Doctor
The following are some important questions to ask before and after the treatment of upper respiratory infections.
Questions to ask before treatment:
- What are my treatment options?
- What are the risks associated with treatment?
- Am I contagious?
- For how long?
- What are the complications I should watch for?
- How do I avoid passing the infection to others?
- How long will I be on medication?
- What are the potential side effects of my medication?
- Does my medication interact with nonprescription medicines or supplements?
- Should I take my medication with food?
Questions to ask after treatment:
- Do I need to change my diet?
- Are there any medications or supplements I should avoid?
- When can I resume my normal activities?
- When can I return to work?
- What else can I do to reduce my risk for upper respiratory infections and pneumonia?
- Will I need to see my doctor for a checkup?
Physicians from the following specialties evaluate and treat upper respiratory infections:
Continue to Colds Home Care
- Bachert C, Chuchalin AG, Eisebitt R, Netayzhenko VZ, Voelker M. Aspirin compared with acetaminophen in the treatment of fever and other symptoms of upper respiratory tract infection in adults: a multicenter, randomized, double-blind, double-dummy, placebo-controlled, parallel-group, single-dose, 6-hour dose-ranging study. Clin Ther. 2005 Jul;27(7):993-1003. 
- Fahey T, Stocks N, Thomas T. Systematic review of the treatment of upper respiratory tract infection. Arch Dis Child. 1998 Sep;79(3):225-30. 
- Islam J, Carter R. Use of Echinacea in upper respiratory tract infection. South Med J. 2005 Mar;98(3):311-8. 
- Lam TP, Lam KF. Why do family doctors prescribe antibiotics for upper respiratory tract infection? Int J Clin Pract. 2003 Apr;57(3):167-9. 
- Ray DA, Rohren CH. Characteristics of patients with upper respiratory tract infection presenting to a walk-in clinic. Mayo Clin Proc. 2001 Feb;76(2):169-73.