What Is a Viral Respiratory Infection?

A viral respiratory infection is an infection of the nasal passages, larynx, sinuses, and pharynx that is caused by a virus. Examples of a viral respiratory infection include the rhinovirus, or common cold. Symptoms of an upper viral respiratory infection include a runny nose, cough, sneezing, and sore throat. In addition, fever, chills, and fatigue may be present. Although a viral respiratory infection is more common during the fall and winter, it can occur anytime during the year.

Treatment for a viral respiratory infection includes drinking plenty of fluids and resting. Although antibiotics are effective in treating infections caused by bacterial organisms, they are not effective in treating viral respiratory infections. Respiratory infections are usually not serious and typically resolve on their own within seven to ten days. When symptoms persist, the physician should be notified who can recommend an effective treatment plan to reduce the risk of complications, such as dehydration.

Home remedies for a viral respiratory infection include taking vitamin C, eating chicken soup, and taking an over-the-counter pain and fever reducer. Since viral infections are contagious, steps should be taken to decrease the risks of getting sick. These include washing the hands after going to the bathroom, wiping the nose, and shaking hands with someone. If soap and water are not available, using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer may be just as effective in reducing bacteria on the hands.


A healthy immune system can help the body stave off a viral respiratory infection. Ways to help support a healthy immune system include getting adequate rest, consuming foods that are rich in vitamin, minerals and fiber, drinking enough water, and even eating yogurt. The active cultures in yogurt are considered "good bacteria" and can help prevent viruses. In addition, smoking and exposure to second hand smoke can depress the immune system, so avoiding these practices can help reduce the risk of a viral infection.

Certain people are more prone to viral infections and complications from them. These people include the very young, the very old, and people who have compromised immune systems. In addition, those who are receiving chemotherapy are also more susceptible to contracting infections. People who are under emotional stress may be more likely to get viral infections because stress can comprise the immune system and reduce the body's ability to fight off infections. An experienced health care provider can help people manage their stress levels by recommending diet, exercise, and relaxation techniques.



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