The fall season is here; marking the start of the peak season for the sniffles and coughs—or the dreaded upper respiratory infection.
Read on to learn more about upper respiratory infections, particularly their causes, symptoms, and the dietary strategies you can employ to combat them.
Causes and Symptoms of An Upper Respiratory Infection
An upper respiratory infection (URI) is a contagious infection that occurs when pathogens (viruses or bacteria) invade the mucous membranes lining the upper airway. URIs are transmitted through the inhalation of infected droplets of saliva when a sick person sneezes or coughs and the virus travels in the air; or through hand-to-hand contact, when you touch the hand of the infected person and you touch your mouth or nose afterward.
The rhinovirus is the most common culprit in upper respiratory infections, accounting for up to 80 percent of all cases. Other types of viruses that cause URIs include the adenovirus, coronavirus, enterovirus, and influenza virus.
Viral URIs are typically benign and self-limiting and usually go away after 14 days. However, they could also progress to a bacterial infection.
Common symptoms of viral upper respiratory infections include the following:
- Runny nose
- Sore throat, especially when swallowing
- Swollen lymph nodes at the sides of the neck
Below are signs that you may have developed a bacterial URI.
- Your symptoms are getting worse or have persisted longer than 14 days.
- Your fever is higher than 103 F.
In such a case, you need to see your primary care physician, who will confirm a diagnosis and prescribe antibiotics to prevent complications, such as bronchitis and pneumonia.
Dietary Strategies to Combat an Upper Respiratory Infection
While there are no medications you can take to ward off a viral upper respiratory infection, there are dietary strategies you can employ—along with rest— to keep it from progressing to a bacterial infection. These include the following:
- Drinking plenty of fluids- Keeping yourself adequately hydrated helps thin your mucus and prevents it from building up in your sinuses (where bacteria can thrive) and throat, causing nasal congestion and coughing.
- Loading up on vitamin C- Vitamin C is one of the major immune system boosters, and not getting enough of this critical micronutrient can make you prone to URIs.
Excellent food sources of vitamin C include green and red peppers, leafy greens like spinach and cabbage, citrus fruits, and potatoes.
- Increasing your magnesium intake– Magnesium contributes to optimal immune function and is a natural bronchodilator: it relaxes your bronchial muscles and allows more air to flow in and out of your lungs. This is especially beneficial if you have a cough.
You can obtain magnesium from seeds, whole grains, nuts, and green leafy vegetables.
- Eating foods rich in probiotics– Yogurt and sauerkraut are two excellent sources of probiotics—living microorganisms that promote good digestion and nutrient absorption as well as contribute to a healthy immune system.
Respiratory Care in Sarasota and Bradenton, FL
If you need medical intervention for your upper respiratory infection, visit us at Intercoastal Medical Group. We have board-certified family medicine and internal medicine physicians on staff who are all committed to providing comprehensive, high-quality care, and who will gladly collaborate with our pulmonologists if need be.
To see one of our primary care physicians, contact us at our office near you or use this form, and we will get in touch with you promptly to schedule your consultation.
Our family medicine and internal medicine physicians accommodate patients at several of our locations: Beneva Family Practice, Beneva Professional Center, Cattleridge Medical Building, Hyde Park, Lakewood Ranch I, Lakewood Ranch II, and Palmer Ranch.