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Skillfully treating upper respiratory infections in the comfort of your home

Almost everyone has had an upper respiratory infection at some point in their lives, even if they weren’t aware of it at the time. An acute upper respiratory infection is a contagious infection that affects the upper respiratory tract, which includes the nose, the throat, the pharynx, the larynx, and the bronchi. The common cold is the most well-known upper respiratory infection, and other types include:

  • Bronchitis, which is characterized by inflammation within the bronchial tubes (the airways that connect the trachea to the lungs)
  • Epiglottitis, which involves inflammation of the epiglottis (the upper section of the trachea that prevents foreign particles from entering the lungs)
  • Laryngitis, which occurs when the larynx (the voice box) becomes inflamed
  • Pharyngitis, which is characterized by inflammation in the pharynx (the space behind the nose and mouth that connects them to the esophagus)
  • Sinusitis, which involves inflammation of the sinuses

While it might seem like influenza (the flu) would be an upper respiratory infection, it can’t be characterized as one because it also affects other areas of the body.

Although seniors aren’t necessarily more likely to contract an upper respiratory infection than younger individuals, they are more likely to develop complications from one of these infections due to their weakened immune systems. As such, it would be understandable if you were concerned about having your elderly loved one visit a clinic for treatment, where he or she could be exposed to countless other illnesses. Luckily, thanks to DispatchHealth’s mobile urgent care services, your loved one can get the treatment he or she needs without having to leave the house. We treat almost anything that an emergency room can, usually for about the same price as a visit to an immediate care clinic. Once you’ve requested a visit, we’ll arrive within one to two hours, and we’ll even send a detailed report to your loved one’s primary care physician and/or assisted living community to promote continuity of care.

Upper respiratory infection symptoms & when to seek treatment

Symptoms will vary between the different types of upper respiratory infections. For instance, when compared to the common cold, a sinus infection will likely cause increased pain and pressure within the face, and the symptoms will tend to last longer. With that being said, some common symptoms of upper respiratory infections include:

  • Nasal congestion
  • Sneezing
  • A runny nose
  • Coughing
  • Wheezing
  • Mucus production
  • Throat soreness
  • Pain when swallowing
  • Headache
  • Fever
  • Fatigue

In many cases, upper respiratory infections will resolve on their own, without the need for professional treatment. However, you may want to seek treatment for your elderly loved one if his or her symptoms are severe or getting worse, or if they’ve lasted for longer than a couple of weeks. You should also seek immediate medical attention if your loved one is having trouble breathing or swallowing, if he or she is dehydrated or lethargic, or if he or she is exhibiting signs of confusion.

What causes upper respiratory infections in seniors?

Upper respiratory infections can be caused by viruses or bacteria, oftentimes spread by person-to-person contact. It’s important to note that if your elderly loved one has an upper respiratory infection that’s caused by a virus, antibiotics won’t have any effect on the illness.

How to prevent & manage upper respiratory infections in seniors

In order to avoid developing an upper respiratory infection, your elderly loved one should:

  • Frequently wash his or her hands
  • Avoid large gatherings
  • Stay away from individuals who are sick
  • Disinfect frequently touched household surfaces and objects, such as doorknobs and remote controls

If left untreated

As noted above, seniors’ weakened immune systems place them at a greater risk of developing complications from an upper respiratory infection. These complications can be quite serious. An untreated infection, for example, could spread to the brain and cause encephalitis or meningitis, or to the heart and cause myocarditis or pericarditis. And in some cases, a viral infection could make it easier for bacteria to invade the airways, leading to a secondary bacterial infection. Plus, individuals with an underlying chronic lung disease, such as asthma or COPD, could experience a worsening of that condition.

To arrange for one of our skilled mobile teams to visit your elderly loved one, contact DispatchHealth today. You can request a visit over the phone, on our app, or through our website.

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