Fast Five Quiz: Upper Respiratory Tract Infections

Michael Stuart Bronze, MD


January 22, 2021

Most URIs are self-limited and resolve completely. However, various conditions may complicate a URI. A postinfectious cough is defined as coughing that persists 3-8 weeks after the onset of a URI in the absence of other clearly defined causes. Exacerbations of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, including emphysema and chronic bronchitis, may occur during and after a URI. Upper airway cough syndrome (postnasal drip) may result from upper airway secretions dripping onto the pharynx. Epistaxis may also occur.

Group A streptococcal pharyngitis is of special concern because its complications include streptococcal toxic shock syndrome, acute rheumatic fever, acute glomerulonephritis, and scarlet fever, as well as cutaneous infections. In addition, this pathogen is readily transmissible, especially in households, families, and other intimate groups. Poststreptococcal glomerulonephritis can affect persons of any age group, but it is most common in children aged 5-6 years and persons older than 60 years. Clinical manifestations are more common in boys than girls, although the incidence of subclinical poststreptococcal glomerulonephritis is equal in both sexes.

Complications may include airway obstruction, myocarditis, polyneuritis, thrombocytopenia, and proteinuria. Among patients who survive diphtheria, permanent hearing loss or other long-term sequelae have been reported.

More than half of infants younger than 12 months who contract pertussis require hospitalization, especially those who are younger than 6 months. According to the CDC, complications of pertussis among hospitalized infants include:

  • Apnea (68%)

  • Pneumonia (23%)

  • Seizures (1.2%)

  • Death (1%)

  • Encephalopathy (0.4%)

Read more about URI complications.


Comments on Medscape are moderated and should be professional in tone and on topic. You must declare any conflicts of interest related to your comments and responses. Please see our Commenting Guide for further information. We reserve the right to remove posts at our sole discretion.