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Treatments for Viral Upper Respiratory Infections (Colds and Influenza)

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The treatment and management of colds and influenza mainly involves relieving your symptoms, though they ordinarily resolve on their own. If you have a chronic health condition, a cold or influenza can worsen whatever condition you have, particularly diabetes, or chronic heart and lung diseases. Occasionally viral upper respiratory infections develop into complications like ear or sinus infections, or pneumonia .

The goals of treatment are threefold:

  • Make yourself comfortable while the illness runs its course.
  • Manage other conditions so they do not worsen during upper respiratory infection.
  • Prevent complications from developing.

Treatment involves the following:

Lifestyle changesMedicationsAlternative and complementary therapies

There are no surgical procedures for the treatment of colds and influenza.

Revision Information

  • Reviewer: David Horn, MD
  • Review Date: 08/2015 -
  • Update Date: 09/17/2014 -
  • Common cold. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/infectious-diseases/respiratory-viruses/common-cold. Updated April 2014. Accessed August 11, 2015.

  • Influenza. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/infectious-diseases/respiratory-viruses/influenza. Updated April 2014. Accessed August 11, 2015.

  • Influenza in adults. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated June 17, 2015. Accessed August 11, 2015.

  • Upper respiratory infection (URI) in adults and adolescents. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated July 8, 2015. Accessed August 11, 2015.