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Dr. Green
The majority of upper respiratory tract infections resolve on their own with no complications. However, depending on the invading virus or bacteria and which areas of the respiratory tract are affected, complications are possible in some cases. Captain Miller, can you tell us about some of these possible complications?

Captain Miller
Sure, Dr. Green. Some potential complications of an upper respiratory tract infection include:

  • Trouble breathing due to inflammation of the epiglottis
  • Secondary infection by bacteria: A viral infection can weaken or impair the body's natural defenses, making it easier for bacteria to invade at the same time. A secondary infection can lead to bacterial sinusitis, bronchitis, or pneumonia.
  • Formation of abscesses in the tonsils
  • Rheumatic fever from strep throat
  • Spread of infection to the brain or the fluid around the brain, causing encephalitis or meningitis
  • Ear infections, also called otitis media
  • Worsening of underlying chronic lung disease, such as asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD
  • Spread of infection to the heart, causing pericarditis or myocarditis, and
  • Muscle strain and rib fractures from forceful coughing