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Respiratory Tract Infections

Infection of the sinuses, throat, airways or lungs are called as respiratory tract infections. This infection can be caused by viruses, bacteria as well as occur due to an allergy.

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It is one of the most common infections for which a patient visits the doctor or pharmacists.

What are Respiratory Tract Infections?

Infectious diseases of the respiratory tract are considered as respiratory tract infections (RTI). These infections are commonly classified as the upper respiratory tract infections (URI) and lower respiratory tract infections (LRI).

Upper Respiratory Tract Infections

The upper respiratory tract includes the nose, sinuses, pharynx and the larynx. Apart from the common cold, there are many infections that affect the upper respiratory tract.

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These include:

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Symptoms of Upper Respiratory Tract Infections

It is often the common cold that leads to symptoms of upper respiratory tract infections. Other symptoms include:

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Causes of Upper Respiratory Tract Infection

The most common cause of the URI is a viral infection. There are over 200 different types of viruses that can lead to an upper respiratory tract infection.

These include:

  • The most common rhinovirus
  • Coronavirus
  • Adenovirus
  • Enterovirus
  • Parainfluenza virus
  • Respiratory syncytial virus

In cases of pharyngitis, bacterial infection is the main cause. The bacteria that can lead to an infection of the upper respiratory tract include:

  • Streptococcus pyogenes
  • Streptococcus pneumonia
  • Corynebacteriumdiphtheriae
  • Bacillus anthracis
  • Bordetella pertussis
  • Haemophilus influenza

Lower Respiratory Tract Infections

The lower respiratory tract includes the trachea, bronchial tubes, bronchioles and the lungs. The infections of the lower respiratory tract are more serious in nature than the upper respiratory tract infections. Most of the infections of lower respiratory tract turn fatal, if prompt treatment is not given. Infections include:

Symptoms of Lower Respiratory Tract Infections

Lower respiratory tract infections are one of the leading causes of death of all infectious diseases. Symptoms include:

Diagnosis of Respiratory Tract Infections

Most cases of respiratory tract infections are diagnosed based on the symptoms. In case of certain conditions, the doctor may order a chest X ray and a blood test to identify the bacteria causing infection. Sputum test, throat or nasal swab will also help identify the causative agent.

Treatment forRespiratory Tract Infections

In most cases of respiratory tract infections, no treatment is required. Viral infections usually resolve on their own. However, one can always take over-the-counter medications like paracetamol or ibuprofen to get some relief. Antibiotics are only given in case of bacterial infections. One should take plenty of rest and drink  a lot of fluid during a respiratory tract infection.

If the symptoms persist and one coughs up bloody mucus or phlegm, visit the doctor immediately. Those who suffer from a pre-existing heart, lung or kidney condition should also bring the respiratory tract infection to the notice of their doctor.

Written by: Saptakee sengupta
Date last updated: April 01, 2015

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