URTI: Meaning, Diagnosis and Overview

What is URTI?

Upper respiratory tract infections (URI or URTI) are the illnesses caused by an acute infection which involves the upper respiratory tract: nose, sinuses, pharynx or larynx. This commonly includes: tonsils, windpipe, nose, ear infections and the common cold. Most URTIs are due to a viral infection.
Average adult has from two to three URI-type illnesses per year and the average child six to 10.
URTI Overview image

Recovery Time

Symptoms typically peak after 2-3 days, and then gradually clear. However, the cough may persist after the infection has gone. This is because inflammation in the airways, caused by the infection, can take a while to settle. It may take 2-3 weeks, after other symptoms have gone, for a cough to clear completely.


The diagnosis is based on review of symptoms, physical examination, and occasionally, laboratory tests.
Blood work and imaging tests are rarely necessary in the valuation of upper respiratory infection. X-rays of the neck may be done if suspected case of epiglottitis.
CT scans can sometimes be useful if symptoms suggestive of sinusitis last longer than 4 weeks.

FAQs prepared by doctor

Q1.What is URTI ?
URTI is the acute infection of the upper respiratory tract – Pharynx and the nasal cavity  by viruses or bacteria. It is usually associated with sore throat, enlarged tonsils, headache, fever, body ache and dry cough.

Q2.How do I get URTI ?
You get URTI if the pathogens enter the body through mouth or nose and get colonized in the upper respiratory tract. It spreads from person to person through inhaled aerosols.

Q3.What is the treatment for URTI?
URTI is treated conservatively with warm saline gargles, anti-tussives, steam inhalation, antipyretics and decongestants.  Antibiotics are prescribed if bacterial infection is suspected.

Q4.How long does it take to cure?
URTI usually resolves within a week time of appropriate treatment.

Q5.How do I prevent URTI?
You can prevent URTI by wearing appropriate mask. Avoid close contact with people suffering from URTI. Get vaccinated once a year with flu vaccine, if you are at risk of frequent URTI.

Q6.What are the complications of URTI?
There are no serious complications associated with URTI.

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