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Upper respiratory tract infections: Considerations in adolescent and adult athletes

Carrie A Jaworski, MD, FAAFP, FACSM
David B Pyne, PhD, FACSM
Section Editor
Francis G O'Connor, MD, MPH, FACSM
Deputy Editor
Jonathan Grayzel, MD, FAAEM


Upper respiratory tract infections (URTIs) are common in athletes. The majority are self-limited viral infections. The evaluation and treatment of athletes with URTIs is typically the same as in the general population. However, there are specific considerations for medication choices in athletes. Additionally, clinicians may be asked to determine when an athlete can return to play or competition.

This topic will discuss the epidemiology, evaluation, and specific medication considerations in athletes with URTI. It will also discuss how to determine when an athlete can return to play after URTI.


For the purposes of this topic, "athlete" refers to adolescents and young adults who participate in both recreational and competitive sports.

The term "upper respiratory tract infection" may be used to describe a variety of infections. For the purposes of this topic, URTIs include:

The common cold (see "The common cold in adults: Diagnosis and clinical features" and "The common cold in adults: Treatment and prevention" and "The common cold in children: Clinical features and diagnosis" and "The common cold in children: Management and prevention")

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Literature review current through: Oct 2017. | This topic last updated: Aug 15, 2017.
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