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Respiratory Tract Infections

Have you ever had a bad cough, sore throat, or high fever that made you think about going to the hospital? We've all been there. These symptoms might point to a condition we regularly encounter at Urgent Care Brisbane: Respiratory Tract Infections (RTIs).

Respiratory Tract Infections - Management at Urgent Care

This article delves into the journey of an imaginary patient, Mary, who walked into our facility with an RTI. We will examine various RTIs. We will discuss the causes of these infections. We will also explore the tests that are conducted. Additionally, we will cover the available treatment options. Lastly, we will explain how we assist patients like Mary at Urgent Care Brisbane in avoiding hospital visits.

Mary’s Story: Meeting RTIs Face to Face

One sunny afternoon, Mary, a healthy 35-year-old, walked into our clinic complaining of a sore throat, cough, and high fever. She was feeling lethargic, experiencing difficulty swallowing and showing all the classic signs of an upper respiratory tract infection (URTI).

Types of Respiratory Tract Infections

Respiratory tract infections are classified into two main types: Upper and Lower RTIs.

Upper Respiratory Tract Infections

Upper Respiratory Tract Infections (RTIs) involve the parts of the respiratory tract that lie above the lungs. Here, we delve into some of the most common upper RTIs, along with their typical symptoms, likely causes, and general treatments:

  1. Common cold: This condition primarily affects the nose and throat, resulting in symptoms such as a runny nose, sore throat, cough, and mild fever. Viruses, especially the rhinovirus, are the most common cause. The treatment for a common cold is usually symptomatic, including rest, fluids, and over-the-counter cold remedies.
  2. Sinusitis: This is characterised by inflammation or swelling of the sinuses. Symptoms include nasal congestion, facial pain, and a reduced sense of smell. It can be caused by both bacterial and viral infections, as well as allergies. Treatment options include nasal decongestants, pain relievers, and in some cases, antibiotics.
  3. Tonsillitis: This condition is marked by inflammation of the tonsils. Symptoms include a sore throat, difficulty swallowing, and swollen glands in the neck. It can be caused by both bacterial and viral infections. If the cause is bacterial, such as Streptococcus (strep throat), antibiotics are prescribed, whereas viral causes require symptomatic treatment like rest, hydration, and pain relief.
  4. Pharyngitis: This involves inflammation of the pharynx and can cause a raw, scratchy sensation in the throat, along with pain and difficulty swallowing. It is often caused by viral infections like the common cold or flu, but bacterial infections can also be a cause. Treatment includes rest, fluids, throat lozenges, and if it’s bacterial, antibiotics.
  5. Laryngitis: This condition involves swelling and irritation of the larynx, causing symptoms like a hoarse voice, a dry cough, and difficulty speaking. It is often the result of overuse, irritation, or an infection. Rest, hydration, and avoiding strain on the voice are standard treatments. If an infection is the cause, antibiotics or antivirals may be needed.
  6. Epiglottitis: A more severe but less common upper RTI that involves inflammation and swelling of the epiglottis, potentially causing severe difficulty breathing. It can be caused by bacterial infections, with Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) being a common culprit. It’s considered a medical emergency and is typically treated with antibiotics and measures to secure the airway.

Understanding the different types of upper respiratory tract infections, their potential causes, symptoms, and treatments, can help you make more informed health decisions. At Urgent Care Brisbane, we’re ready to help you navigate through these conditions with expert care and treatment options tailored to your specific needs.

Lower Respiratory Track Infections

Lower RTIs involve the airways below the vocal cords and usually encompass:


  • Symptoms: Persistent cough, production of mucus (which can be clear, white, yellowish-gray or green), fatigue, shortness of breath, mild fever, and chest discomfort.
  • Causes: The main cause is typically a viral infection, but it can also be due to bacteria and irritants like tobacco smoke.
  • Treatment: Rest, fluids, use of a humidifier, and over-the-counter pain relievers to manage symptoms. Antibiotics may be prescribed if a bacterial infection is identified.


  • Symptoms: Chest pain during breathing or coughing, fatigue, fever, sweating and shaking chills, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea, and shortness of breath.
  • Causes: It can be caused by bacteria (most commonly Streptococcus pneumoniae), viruses, and fungi.
  • Treatment: Depends on the type and severity of pneumonia. Antibiotics, antivirals, or antifungal medications are used accordingly.


  • Symptoms: Wheezing, rapid breathing, difficulty feeding, and a persistent cough.
  • Causes: Typically caused by viral infections, particularly the Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV).
  • Treatment: Ensuring adequate hydration, using a humidifier to ease breathing, and in some cases, administering antiviral medications or providing oxygen therapy in a hospital setting.


  • Symptoms: Shortness of breath, wheezing, coughing, and chest tightness.
  • Causes: Allergens, irritants, respiratory infections, and physical activity.
  • Treatment: Involves long-term control medications to reduce the frequency and severity of asthma attacks and quick-relief (rescue) inhalers for immediate symptom relief during an attack.

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)

  • Symptoms: Difficulty breathing, cough, mucus (sputum) production, and wheezing.
  • Causes: Long-term exposure to irritating gases or particulate matter, most often from tobacco smoke.
  • Treatment: May include bronchodilators, inhaled steroids, oxygen therapy, and lifestyle changes like quitting smoking and increasing physical activity.
  • Remember, at Urgent Care Brisbane, our team of emergency doctors and nurses is well-equipped to handle respiratory tract infections. We’re here to ensure you receive appropriate care promptly and effectively.

The Unseen Enemies: Viral and Bacterial Infections

Respiratory tract infections can be caused by various microorganisms, primarily viruses and bacteria. The most common viral pathogens include Rhinovirus, Influenza, and Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV). On the other hand, the typical bacterial pathogens involved are Streptococcus pneumoniae and Haemophilus influenza.

The Battle Plan: Investigations and Treatment

Mary’s symptoms pointed towards a probable viral URTI. We conducted a set of investigations to confirm this and rule out any bacterial infection. These included a respiratory virus swab PCR, a throat swab, and a blood test. Luckily, Mary’s chest X-ray was clear, so there was no sign of a lower respiratory tract infection.


The treatment for RTIs depends on whether the infection is viral or bacterial. In Mary’s case, the lab results confirmed a viral infection. Therefore, our treatment plan focused on relieving her symptoms at home. She was advised to rest, stay hydrated, and use over-the-counter remedies to soothe her throat and reduce her fever. We also recommended that she gargle with warm water and try a home remedy like inhaling steam to ease her congested sinuses. Had her infection been bacterial, we would have prescribed antibiotics to combat the infection.

Next Steps

Mary started her treatment. She was advised to be vigilant for signs of her condition worsening. These signs include a persistent high fever, difficulty breathing, and chest pain. We also set up a review appointment to monitor her recovery.

The Guide to Recovering from Respiratory Tract Infections at Urgent Care Brisbane

We are here for you at Urgent Care Brisbane, just like we were for Mary. We are equipped to provide comprehensive care to patients suffering from RTIs. Here’s a step-by-step guide of our approach:

  1. Assessment: Our trained emergency doctors and nurses perform an initial assessment to understand the severity of your symptoms.
  2. Investigations: We conduct the necessary tests to identify the type of infection (viral or bacterial) and rule out severe conditions like pneumonia.
  3. Treatment Plan: Based on your diagnosis, we customize a treatment plan to manage your symptoms effectively at home or prescribe medications if necessary.
  4. Follow-up: We schedule a follow-up appointment to monitor your progress and modify the treatment plan if needed.
  5. Education: We equip you with the knowledge about red flags and preventive measures to manage your condition better and avoid complications.


Respiratory tract infections, although common, can disrupt our daily lives significantly. However, it is possible to manage and recover from these infections with the right approach without stepping into a hospital’s emergency department. Urgent Care Brisbane is committed to providing this high standard of care and treatment for all patients dealing with RTIs, just like we did for Mary.

Remember, health is a journey, not a destination. And no matter what kind of respiratory infection you’re facing, whether it’s a common cold or a more serious lower respiratory infection, Urgent Care Brisbane is ready to assist you every step of the way.

So, if you’re grappling with a persistent cough, a high fever, or any other symptoms related to respiratory tract infections, don’t hesitate. Reach out to us, and let’s start your journey to recovery together.

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