Upper respiratory infections become increasingly common during the winter months. The viruses and bacteria that cause upper respiratory infections thrive in the low humidity of the cooler months. Due to the cold, children are also much more likely to stay indoors in groups, increasing the chances of spreading infections. In addition to these risk factors, air ducts may also harbor bacteria and viruses and distribute these pathogens into the air when the heat is turned on. Limited ventilation will keep these pathogens in circulation and cause infections.
What is an Upper Respiratory Infection?
The upper respiratory tract is comprised of the nasal passages, pharynx, larynx, and sinuses. An upper respiratory infection can be in any one of these components. Upper respiratory infections are often labeled by the specific area of the upper respiratory tract that is affected. Sinus infection, common cold, and laryngitis are some of the common names given to infections in different areas.
Treating Upper Respiratory Infections
Most upper respiratory tract infections are caused by viruses. Viruses do not respond to antibiotics, so antibiotics should not be prescribed to treat these infections. Viral infections will go away on their own, so parents should allow their children plenty of time to rest. Medicated rubs such as Vicks Vapor Rub may help to provide some relief from congestion.
Preventing the Spread of Upper Respiratory Tract Infections
Doing simple actions such as washing hands frequently and covering the face when coughing or sneezing may help to prevent the spread of upper respiratory infections. Parents can help in these efforts by encouraging children to wash hands and cover the face. Parents can also help to prevent the spread of upper respiratory infections by keeping children home from school when they are sick and limiting house guests.