Coping With Upper Respiratory Problems

When people become ill they tend to seek medical help. However, there are certain illnesses for which your doctor can provide no treatment and a visit is simply a waste of time and money. These are various types of respiratory problems.

To determine whether the doctor can or can’t help there is some important information you need to know. You need to know the difference between viral illnesses or illnesses caused by a virus and those caused by bacteria.

The doctor can’t provide any better treatment for a viral infection than you can provide for yourself at home. Of course, he can prescribe some medication, tell you to get plenty or rest, drink lots of fluids, and eat lightly. For this you will pay his standard office call fee plus the price of the prescription.

However, you could buy equally effective medicine over the counter, give yourself the same advice, and follow it. Then, when you well again, you can use the fee money to treat yourself to something special you have always wanted.

The most common viral infection is what the medical profession refers to as Viral URI and we all know as the “common cold.” As you know, this involves one or more of the following: nasal congestion, sore throat, hoarseness, fever, swollen glands, cough, aching muscles, and congested ears. Colds usually begin with just one symptom and the others quickly follow. And one of the symptoms, usually the cough, remains for a short time after the others leave.

Colds are just as well treated by over the counter medications such as decongestants, pain relievers, antihistamines, cough drops etc. There are also many herbal remedies available at health food stores and a host of “home” remedies.

Although a sore throat is common with a cold, it can also be a result of a bacterial infection.
So how to tell the difference?

Respiratory infections that are cause by bacteria usually have a single location in the respiratory tract. For example, if a sore throat is a streptococcal infection it is bacterial. A strep throat may be accompanied by fever and swollen lymph glands but a runny nose, cough, congested ears, or aching muscles would not be present.

Strep throat can be helped by a visit to the doctor’s office, as antibiotics may be effective in treating bacterial infections. However, the most important reason for seeing a doctor for treatment of strep throat is to prevent rheumatic fever, a complication often resulting from strep throat.

Another viral infection, viral gastroenteritis, commonly known as “stomach flu” may be worthy of a visit to the doctor’s office. Symptoms of stomach flu are nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal cramps. However, these are also symptoms of more serious illnesses such as appendicitis and only a doctor can tell the difference.

Flu is also a viral infection but unlike a cold it is accompanied by intense headaches, muscle aches, and eye discomfort. Simple flu responds to the same treatment as colds but if complications arise, a doctor’s visit may be necessary.

It is important, however, that people view the use of antibiotics with caution. It is common for patients to race to the doctor demanding an antibiotic for colds, flu, etc. Overuse of antibiotics develops antibiotic-resistant bacteria, making the illnesses that would normally respond to an antibiotic more difficult to treat.