Respiratory tract infections (RTIs) can affect the sinuses, throat, airways or lungs. Most RTIs get better without treatment, but sometimes you may need to see your GP.
Symptoms of an RTI include:
Most RTIs pass within 1 to 2 weeks. You can usually treat your symptoms at home.
A pharmacist can suggest treatments to help relieve your symptoms, such as decongestants and nasal sprays.
You can also buy cough medicines and throat lozenges, although there's little evidence to show they help.
If you're taking these medicines separately, be careful not to take more than the recommended dose.
Certain treatments are not suitable for children, babies and pregnant women. Your pharmacist can advise you about the best treatment for you or your child.
You may have pneumonia if your symptoms are severe.
Treatment will depend on the cause of your RTI:
Sometimes a sample of your mucus may need to be tested to see what's causing your RTI.
Antibiotics are only used to treat bacterial infections. They're not used for treating viral infections because they do not work for this type of infection.
If you keep getting RTIs or you're at a high risk of getting one (for example, because you're over the age of 65 or have a serious long-term health condition), you should:
RTIs are often spread in the coughs and sneezes of someone with an infection.
There are several different types. They're usually grouped into upper and lower RTIs.
|Upper RTIs (sinuses and throat)||Lower RTIs (airways and lungs)|
|Sinusitis (sinus infection)||Bronchiolitis|
|Laryngitis||Pneumonia (lung infection)|
Flu can be an upper or lower RTI.
Lower RTIs tend to last longer and can be more serious.
Page last reviewed: Mon Apr 2021 Next review due: Mon Apr 2021