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Upper Respiratory Tract Infections: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

Upper Respiratory Tract Infections (URTI), including the common cold, are prevalent during the harmattan season in Nigeria due to several factors.

These factors include: Dry Air: The dry harmattan air can dry out respiratory mucous membranes, making them more vulnerable to infections. Dust and Allergens: Fine dust and particulate matter in the air during harmattan can carry allergens and irritants, increasing the risk of respiratory symptoms and infections. Temperature Fluctuations: Fluctuating temperatures during harmattan can stress the immune system and make individuals more susceptible to infections. Weakened Immunity: Seasonal changes and stressors can weaken the body’s immune response, reducing its ability to combat infections. In this blog post, we will understand URTIs, their causes, symptoms, and prevention.

What is an upper respiratory tract infection (URTI)?

A URTI, also known as the common cold or simply a cold, is a viral infection that primarily affects the upper respiratory system. It encompasses a range of conditions, including:

  1. Common Cold: The most prevalent URTI is usually caused by rhinoviruses and is characterized by symptoms like a runny or stuffy nose, sneezing, and a sore throat.
  2. Sinusitis: infection and inflammation of the sinuses, leading to facial pain, congestion, and thick nasal discharge.
  3. Pharyngitis: inflammation of the throat, causing a sore throat and difficulty swallowing.
  4. Laryngitis: inflammation of the larynx (voice box), resulting in hoarseness and voice changes.
  5. Tonsillitis: infection and inflammation of the tonsils, often causing a sore throat, difficulty swallowing, and fever.

Causes of URTIs

URIs are primarily caused by viruses, with rhinoviruses being the most common. These viruses are highly contagious and can spread through:

  • Direct contact with an infected person.
  • Touching contaminated surfaces and then touching the nose or mouth.
  • Inhalation of respiratory droplets released when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

Symptoms of URTIs

The symptoms of URTIs can vary from person to person and may include:

  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Sneezing
  • Sore throat
  • Coughing
  • Mild headache
  • Fatigue
  • Low-grade fever (more common in children)

Treatment and Management

Most URIs are self-limiting and resolve on their own within a week or two. However, here are some tips to manage symptoms and speed up recovery:

  1. Rest: Get plenty of rest to help your body fight off the infection.
  2. Hydration: Drink fluids like water, herbal tea, and broth to stay hydrated and soothe your throat.
  3. Over-the-counter medications: Over-the-counter cold medications may help relieve symptoms like congestion and coughing. Be sure to follow the dosing instructions carefully.
  4. Warm Saltwater Gargle: Gargling with warm salt water can ease a sore throat.
  5. Humidifier: Using a humidifier in your room can add moisture to the air, making it easier to breathe.
  6. Avoid Irritants: Avoid smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke, as it can worsen symptoms.
  7. Antibiotics: Note that antibiotics are not effective against viral infections like URIs. They should only be used if a bacterial infection is suspected.


Preventing URIs involves good hygiene practices.

  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water.
  • Avoid close contact with infected individuals.
  • Cover your mouth and nose when sneezing or coughing.
  • Disinfect frequently touched surfaces.
  • Wear protective clothing.
  • Seek medical advice promptly when needed, with the convenience of CloudClinic’s virtual consultations in Nigeria.


While upper respiratory tract infections (URIs) can be uncomfortable,. It’s essential to practice good hygiene to prevent the spread of these infections. However, with CloudClinic’s virtual consultations, patients receive timely advice and support for their health concerns. Also, by staying informed about common health issues like URIs, individuals can better manage their health and make informed decisions about when to seek medical advice.

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