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What if I have an upper respiratory tract infection?

The URI or upper respiratory tract infection is a catch-all term used to describe the common signs and symptoms of the "common cold". Most of these infections are viral in nature and they resolve spontaneously. Occasionally, a patient will have a bacterial infection involving the sinuses or the throat, such as strep throat, or even pneumonia. These patients require antibiotic therapy. It can be difficult to differentiate the common viral infection from the more serious bacterial URI or pneumonia. If the symptoms are of new onset (<1-2 weeks) and not accompanied by fever, productive sputum, or chest pain and shortness of breath. Supportive care is likely indicated and the patient may try one of the approved over the counter preparations to relieve her symptoms. There are a variety of over the counter medications available. Anti-histamines are utilized extensively. See the list below and match the medications to the appropriate symptoms. Importantly, these medications do not "cure" the infections. They are intended to only relieve the symptoms caused by the infections.

  • Vaporizer at bedside
  • Vicks VapoRub
  • Nasal irrigation: ½ tsp. salt, ½ tsp. baking soda in 8 oz. warm water. Irrigate nasal passages 3-4 times daily
  • Cepastat lozenges or throat sprays
  • Afrin (oxymetazoline)—theoretic precautions in IUGR cases
  • Antihistamines:
    • Chlor-trimetron (chlorpheniramine)—after 12 weeks pregnant
    • Sudafed (pseudoephedrine)—after 12 weeks pregnant
    • Novahistine—after 12 weeks pregnant
    • Tylenol cold and sinus—after 12 weeks pregnant
    • Advil cold and sinus—after 12 weeks and before 32 weeks pregnant
    • Claritin (loratadine)—after 12 week

Alert! Patients should take medicines during pregnancy only as a last alternative. Many medicines are considered "safe" when taken during pregnancy, and are described as such here; however, these declarations are usually made via observational studies of populations. They are rarely made as the result of rigorous study. Thus, caution and restraint should be exercised in starting any medication, prescription or over the counter, during pregnancy.

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