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Cold, Flu and RTIs

Viruses can cause common respiratory tract infections (RTI) which are easily spread. Almost everyone would have been affected at least once by the common cold, flu or another RTI at some point because most of them are very contagious. An RTI describes any infection which affects the breathing process in the sinuses, throat, airway or lungs.

For most people, while the symptoms are unpleasant, RTIs are not serious and go away by themselves. However, a serious RTI may require prescription medication and there could be complications for people with pre-existing health conditions or the elderly. 

Symptoms of RTIs

There are many different viruses which cause RTIs and therefore a wide range of symptoms. The most common infections are cold, flu, sore throat, glandular fever and tonsillitis.  While symptoms may differ, many RTIs also share similar symptoms such as:

  • Sneezing
  • A blocked nose
  • A runny nose
  • Sore throat or glands
  • Headache
  • Persistent cough

What causes an RTI?

Most respiratory tract infections are caused by contagious viruses, a minority are caused by bacteria. The infections are spread through direct and indirect contact. For example, when an infected person coughs or sneezes, droplets of the virus are released into the air which could be breathed in by others. Indirect contact can also be the cause, if you touch the same surfaces as an infected person.  

How to treat RTIs, cold, flu

Many RTIs will disappear on their own within a few weeks, therefore it’s just a case of managing the symptoms unless you have another long term condition. Treat yourself at home with plenty of fluids, rest and painkillers from the pharmacy. If symptoms persist, it’s time to book an appointment to see a doctor. Antibiotics do not work against viruses, therefore you only need antibiotics if your GP thinks it is a bacterial infection. A babylon GP will conduct a medical assessment to identify which RTI you are suffering from, and see if further prescription treatment is necessary.