Winter Illnesses: Upper Respiratory Conditions

Winter Illnesses: Upper Respiratory Conditions

During the cold winter months in the UK, it’s not uncommon to be plagued by upper respiratory conditions such as the common cold. With Covid-19 persisting throughout the UK, it’s especially important to understand common winter respiratory conditions to ensure you take the proper precautions and don’t infect anyone else.


Similarly, if you know what you’re dealing with, it’s easier to treat! For example, if you think you might have asthma you would be able to acquire a suitable inhaler such as the Ventolin asthma inhaler. 


What is an upper respiratory condition?


Before we dive into what conditions fall under the umbrella of upper respiratory conditions and how to treat them, it might be a good idea to define what they actually are.


An upper respiratory condition, also known as acute upper respiratory infections or URI’s, are a transferable infection of the upper respiratory tract. Tract? Included in your upper respiratory tract are the throat, nose, larynx, pharynx and bronchi.


If you’re still a little confused, I’m sure you will have heard of and probably suffered from the common cold, which is suitably named as it is the most common form of URI. Other well-known upper respiratory conditions include influenza, sinusitis and epiglottitis.


What are the causes of upper respiratory conditions?

As with all illnesses, you are likely to contract an upper respiratory condition if certain viruses or bacteria enter your body. The specific viruses and bacteria that commonly cause URI’s include rhinovirus, adenovirus and parainfluenza virus among others. While these sound scary, most of us won’t have heard of them before, and for good reason. All you need to know is how they can enter your body.

The reason we call these types of conditions winter illnesses is that they tend to increase in the population in the colder months. The reasons for this are the increase in people huddling up indoors in enclosed spaces and the fact that these viruses usually survive longer in the lower temperatures with reduced humidity.

Upper respiratory conditions spread from between people via aerosol droplets which linger in the air and cling to surfaces. If someone has one of these viruses in their system and they sneeze or cough they are spreading them out into the air for people to breathe in or pick up from a surface and touch their face. You will be very surprised when you learn how often you touch your face subconsciously, and this should worry you as bacteria and viruses are lurking on every surface! Try and wash your hands as much as possible and avoid touching your face as much as you can to diminish your risk of contracting an upper respiratory condition.

What are the Symptoms?

Again, paying attention to your symptoms can give you a good idea of which upper respiratory condition you may have, and could allow you to better treat it. As the vast majority of us have experienced the common cold, we have first-hand knowledge of some of these symptoms. These common symptoms can be experienced across many of the URIs.

  • Cough
  • Runny nose
  • Sinus congestion
  • Excess mucus
  • Sneezing
  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Sore throat

How to treat upper respiratory infection?


When we talk about treating URI’s we are referring to the suppression and relief of symptoms rather than curing the illness. Many people benefit from common cough medicines, zinc, nasal decongestants and vitamin C to help them through the length of the illness.

A lot of regular sufferers use asthma inhalers to alleviate their symptoms. The most common one used is a Ventolin Inhaler. This inhaler uses the active ingredient Salbutamol sulphate which targets beta-2 receptors found in the lungs. Stimulating them and allowing them to relax opens the airways. 


From November onwards in the UK a plethora of winter illnesses rear their ugly heads, and most of them are upper respiratory conditions we are all too familiar with. Most of us will be familiar with the common cold which treats us to a variety of common URI symptoms such as a sore throat, headache, cough and sinus congestion. An upper respiratory condition of URI is a transferable infection of the upper respiratory tract. Tract? Included in your upper respiratory tract are the throat, nose, larynx, pharynx and bronchi. This is easily passed on during the winter months with people huddling inside and the virus’s ability to survive in cold climates.