Student Wellness Services

Health Services


Upper Respiratory Infection

UPPER RESPIRATORY INFECTIONS include treatment recommendations for the common cold, nasal congestion, ear blockage which can last several weeks following treatment for an ear infection, sinus infection, sore throat, post nasal drip and laryngitis.

How long does it take for me to improve?

Realize that upper respiratory infections can last approximately 7 to 10 days .  Return to your physician or our Health Service if the antibiotics that are given for bacterial infections have not changed  In the color of your mucus or relieved any of your congestion.


1.  Fluids -  Drink 8-10 glasses of fluid ( water, soups, juices) each day which will add  moisture to your airways and soothe an irritated throat.  Orange juice and other citrus drinks may be irritating to a raw or scratchy throat.  Milk products may  increase congestion.

2.  Vaporizer.  Two showers a day, one in the morning and one in the evening can give  comforting temporary relief.  Place pans of water near heat sources in your room to increase the humidity if the heat is from a non- steam source.

3.  Gargle and/or throat lozenges:  Dilute mouthwash with warm water or use a salt water gargle (1/2 teaspoon of salt mixed in a large glass of warm water).  Both  gargling and use of lozenges soothe a scratchy raw throat which maybe the result of the post nasal drip or coughing irritation. 

4.  Rest: Avoid strenuous activity and try to get plenty of sleep.  You need to be your best judge about what is too much activity and not enough sleep>

5.  Limit or stop smoking and avoid second hand smoke:  Smoking is a major irritant in the respiratory tract and prolongs the length of the time before which an infection resolves.  It may not be easy to quit smoking if you are a regular smoker; we recommend you decrease your cigarette amount that may happen naturally when you are ill.

6.  Alcohol and caffeine:  When taking medications for the upper respiratory illnesses, unnecessary adverse side effects may be caused by the intake of alcohol and /or caffeinated drinks.  This is because alcohol has a dehydrating effect on the body and is a depressant.  Antihistamines which are often recommended during upper respiratory illnesses cause drowsiness and should not be mixed with alcohol.  Similarly, decongestants react with other stimulants like caffeine which may heighten your sense of jitteriness or tremulousness which maybe a side effect of either drug.

7.  Take Medication as directed.

 Antihistamines:  are helpful in drying out a post nasal drip , runny nose or scratchy morning throat.  They are recommended for nighttime use because of  their major side effect of drowsiness which one cannot tolerate well during the  daytime hours as college students.  Some people, however, are not effected by this side effect and can tolerate the medication during the day.

Decongestants:  Are used for relief of nasal and sinus congestion and decrease the swelling of the nasal passages.

 Nasal sprays are recommended to relieve the local obstruction from mucus or swelling or the nasal passages.  These sprays may be used alone or in combination with other pills/tablets for both decongestion and antihistamine  effects.

 Antibiotics will be prescribed for a sinus, ear or throat infection in which the cause is a  bacteria, as opposed to virus.  Antibiotics are given for a 10 day period and need to be taken for the full course to avoid relapses.  If you are not improving within 3 days, please return to the office to be reconsidered for an antibiotic change.

Viruses can also cause an upper respiratory Infection but only be treated by supportive measures listed above without the addition of antibiotics. 

1/95, 12/97, 8/00, 5/03, 1/05 CCS  University Health Service revised