Upper Respiratory Infection Symptoms:
When to Visit the ER?

When Upper Respiratory Infections Need Emergency Care

Upper respiratory infections (URIs), commonly known as the common cold, are infections that affect the nasal passages and throat. While most URIs are mild and resolve on their own, there are instances when symptoms can escalate, indicating a more serious condition that requires emergency medical attention. Understanding when to seek emergency care can help prevent complications and ensure timely treatment. This blog post will discuss the symptoms of upper respiratory infections and highlight when it’s necessary to visit the emergency room (ER).

Common Symptoms of Upper Respiratory Infections

URIs are caused by viruses and typically lead to a range of symptoms, including:

  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Sore throat
  • Cough
  • Mild fever
  • Sneezing
  • Fatigue
  • Mild body aches

Signs Your Upper Respiratory Infection Needs Emergency Room Care

Most symptoms of URIs can be managed at home with rest, hydration, and over-the-counter medications. However, certain symptoms and situations warrant a visit to the ER. Here are key indicators:

Difficulty Breathing or Shortness of Breath

If you or someone else is experiencing difficulty breathing, it could be a sign of a severe respiratory infection or other serious conditions like pneumonia or bronchitis. Shortness of breath may also indicate that the infection has spread to the lower respiratory tract.

High Fever

A high fever that persists, especially one that’s 103°F (39.4°C) or higher in adults, or any fever in infants under 3 months old, can be a sign of a severe infection. If a rash accompanies fever, it could indicate a more serious condition that requires immediate medical attention.

Chest Pain or Severe Abdominal Pain

While chest pain can occur with a cough, severe pain warrants evaluation to rule out more serious conditions such as pneumonia or a heart attack. Similarly, intense abdominal pain, especially if accompanied by vomiting, requires emergency care.

Confusion or Altered Mental State

Confusion, disorientation, or difficulty waking up can be signs of a severe infection, dehydration, or complications from a high fever. These symptoms should be treated as a medical emergency.

Persistent Vomiting

The inability to keep liquids down due to persistent vomiting can lead to dehydration and may require intravenous fluids and medication.

Signs of Dehydration

Symptoms of dehydration, such as decreased urination, dry mouth and throat, and dizziness when standing up, can escalate, especially in young children and older adults, and may require IV hydration.

Worsening of Chronic Medical Conditions

People with chronic medical conditions like asthma, COPD, heart disease, or diabetes may experience worsening symptoms during a URI. If symptoms of these conditions intensify, it’s critical to seek emergency care.

While upper respiratory infections are usually not cause for alarm, recognizing the signs that require emergency medical attention is crucial. Difficulty breathing, high fever, severe pain, confusion, persistent vomiting, signs of dehydration, and worsening of chronic medical conditions are all indicators that you should visit the ER. Prompt medical evaluation and treatment can prevent complications and ensure the best possible outcome. The Emergency Center is adept at offering prompt and efficient diagnosis and treatment for patients suffering from upper respiratory infections (URIs).

Our facility is equipped to handle severe cases of URIs that require immediate attention, such as those with complications or at high risk for further health issues. Treatment strategies may include medication to alleviate symptoms, hydration therapy, and, when necessary, more advanced interventions. With our patient-centered approach and 24/7 availability, The Emergency Center provides a reassuring destination for those in need of emergent care for upper respiratory infections, ensuring that each patient receives the best possible support for a swift recovery.

Enjoy life. We’ll be here for the bumps along the way. ™


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The Emergency Center

San Antonio
11320 Alamo Ranch Pkwy
San Antonio, TX 78253

Phone: 210-485-3644