Stephen J. Schueler, M.D.

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Upper Respiratory Infections Home Care

Home care for upper respiratory infections includes:

Upper Respiratory Infections Congestion

Home treatment for congestion with an upper respiratory infection includes: includes general measures and medications. Medications include oral decongestants, decongestant nasal sprays and antihistamines.

General Measures

  • Blow your nose gently. Forceful blowing can cause pain and bleeding.
  • Apply petroleum jelly to the nostrils if the skin becomes dry.
  • Drink plenty of liquids.
  • Place a vaporizer or nebulizer in the bedroom at night.
  • Use saline (saltwater) nose spray, such as Ocean Nasal Mist: saline helps to keep the lining of nasal passages moist. Saline may be used to flush the nasal passages:
    • Lie on your back and tilt your head back.
    • Apply 2- 4 drops of saline in one on nostril, then wait 1 minute.
    • Blow your nose.
    • Repeat in the other nostril.

Oral Decongestants
Oral decongestants, such as pseudoephedrine (Sudafed), help to thin the mucus responsible for the congestion. Decongestants are safe for adults and adolescents.

Decongestant precautions:

Decongestant Sprays
Decongestant nasal sprays, such as pseudoephedrine (Afrin) can relieve congestion faster than oral medications.

Examples include:
  • Afrin Nasal Spray
  • Duration Nasal Spray
  • Four-Way Fast Nasal Spray
  • Neo-Synephrine Nasal Spray
  • Vicks Sinex Nasal Spray

Precautions include:
  • Do not use decongestant nasal sprays for longer than 3 days. After three days, the nasal tissues become dependent on the medication. When the medication is stopped, the nasal tissue swells and congestion worsens.

Antihistamines
Antihistamines, such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl) brompheniramine and chlorpheniramine, dry nasal tissue.

Examples include:

Antihistamine precautions:

Upper Respiratory Infections Cough

Home treatment of a cough in adults with an upper respiratory infection includes:

  • Avoid respiratory irritants, such as pollution, pollen, mold, dust and chemical fumes
  • Change A/C and furnace filters regularly.
  • Stop smoking
  • Avoid exposure to secondary smoke
  • Drink warm liquids to relieve coughing spasms.
  • Raise the head of your bed at night and sleep on your left side: this minimizes acid reflux.
  • Use throat lozenges.
  • Place a vaporizer or nebulizer in the bedroom at night.

Cough medications:

Cough medication precautions:

Upper Respiratory Infections Fever

Medications commonly used to control pain and fever in adults with an upper respiratory infection includes:


Acetaminophen
  • Acetaminophen decreases fever and pain, but does not help inflammation.
  • Adult dosing is 2 regular strength (325 mg) every 4 hours or 2 extra-strength (500 mg) every 6 hours.
  • Maximum dose is 4,000 mg per day.
  • Avoid this drug if you have alcoholism, liver disease or an allergy to the drug. See the package instructions.
  • Common brand names include Tylenol, Panadol, and many others.

Aspirin

Ibuprofen

Naproxen

Ketoprofen

NSAID Precautions

Upper Respiratory Infections Sore Throat

Home care for a sore throat in an adult with an upper respiratory infection includes:

Upper Respiratory Infections Warning Signs

Notify your doctor if you have an upper respiratory infection and any of the following:

Upper Respiratory Infections Wheezing

Some upper respiratory infections may cause mild wheezing.

Home care for mild wheezing includes:

  • Avoid exposure to smoke.
  • Avoid cough medicine.
  • Avoid sedative medications.
  • Avoid substances that trigger wheezing.
  • Drink plenty of liquids to remain hydrated.
  • Place a vaporizer or nebulizer in the bedroom at night.

Home care for those who take medication for wheezing includes:
  • Follow asthma home care instructions.
  • Learn to use prescribed inhalers correctly.
  • Use short-acting inhalers every 20 minutes, or as directed by your doctor.
  • Long-acting medications must be used regularly.
  • Learn to use a peak flow meter.
  • Know the peak flow danger zones.
  • Develop a strategy for using your inhaler based on your PEFR reading
  • Stay calm during a wheezing attack.

Peak Flow Zones:
  • Green Zone:
    • A PEFR reading that is 80-100% of personal best represents good control
  • Yellow Zone:
    • A PEFR reading that is 50-80% of personal best represents a moderate attack
  • Red Zone:
    • A PEFR reading that is less than 50% of personal best represents a severe attack and may identify the need for treatment in an emergency department.

Continue to Upper Respiratory Infections Prevention

Last Updated: Jan 6, 2011 References
Authors: Stephen J. Schueler, MD; John H. Beckett, MD; D. Scott Gettings, MD
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PubMed Upper Respiratory Infections References
  1. 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. [16154478]
  2. 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. [9875017]
  3. Islam J, Carter R. Use of Echinacea in upper respiratory tract infection. South Med J. 2005 Mar;98(3):311-8. [15813158]
  4. 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. [12723716]
  5. 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. [11213305]
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