You have been sick for three days with a fever, sneezing, coughing, sore throat, and more. Should you see your internal medicine or family doctor for antibiotics? We will explore this question in this blog to give you clear guidance on when antibiotics may be necessary for you or a family member with an upper respiratory infection.
What are the Symptoms of Upper Respiratory Infections?
People with upper respiratory infections can exhibit a long list of symptoms, which may vary from mild to severe. In general, the bacteria or viruses that cause URIs have their greatest impact on the very young (infants and toddlers) and on the elderly (adults aged 65 and up).
That being said, people with compromising health conditions, such as diabetes or asthma, and those who are immunosuppressed due to cancer treatment, HIV/AIDS, or something else, also have more impactful symptoms from upper respiratory tract infections.
The symptoms can include:
- Runny nose
- Sore throat
- Body aches
Additionally, people with chronic lung conditions, such as asthma or COPD, may experience an uptick in their chronic symptoms of cough, wheezing, or shortness of breath if they develop a URI.
When Should You See Your Primary Care Physician About Your Symptoms?
In general, if you have symptoms of an upper respiratory tract infection, they should resolve within a week to 10 days. However, if symptoms have not cleared (or are not improving) after 10 days, you should see your internal medicine or family physician for an in-office evaluation. A high fever – greater than 101 degrees F – and production of blood-tinged sputum with a cough should also be investigated by a physician.
During your office visit, your physician will review your symptoms, take your vital signs, inspect your ears, nose, and throat and listen to your breath sounds with a stethoscope. They may also take a throat, nasal, or sputum culture depending on the location of your congestion and mucous production. A chest X-ray may be in order if the physician suspects or wishes to rule out bronchitis or pneumonia.
When Do I Need Antibiotics for My Upper Respiratory Infection?
Much depends on your actual diagnosis. Viral infections that affect the upper respiratory tract do not improve in any way with treatment by antibiotics.
However, other URIs may indeed be bacterial in nature, and depending on the results of your physical examination and testing, could respond well to antibiotic therapy. Infections that need antibiotics include:
- Sinusitis, an inflammation of the air-filled cavities in your cheeks, forehead, and nose
- Bronchitis, inflammation of the slender breathing tubes located in the lungs
- Strep throat, a common pediatric pharyngitis caused by A strep bacteria
- Pneumonia or inflammation of lung tissue, including the small air sacs called alveoli
- Laryngitis, an infection of the voice box in the throat
What to Consider When Your Doctor Prescribes a Course of Antibiotics
Be sure to double check that you are not allergic to the medication. Also, you should:
- Take the antibiotics exactly as prescribed – with food as needed and at the times and quantity directed
- Finish all the antibiotics even after you begin to feel better (bacteria may still linger in your system and cause a resurgence in infection and symptoms)
- Never use anyone else’s antibiotics or share your own with someone else who happens to be sick
- Keep children who are on antibiotics at home from school or daycare until they have been on their medications for at least 24 hours
- Watch for side effects, even if you have taken this particular antibiotic in the past
Side effects you should report to your primary care physician right away include:
- Oral swelling, including tongue and lips
- Shortness of breath
- Nausea and vomiting
- Yeast infection (vaginal or oral)
Upper Respiratory Infection Treatment in Sarasota and Bradenton, FL
At Intercoastal Medical Group, our highly trained providers deliver comprehensive medical care, including diagnosis and treatment of acute illnesses such as upper respiratory tract infections. We have 10 convenient locations to serve you.
To learn more about our services or to arrange an appointment with one of our physicians, please call the location nearest you. Or, request a visit online.