Respiratory tract infections or RTIs as they are often called, are any infection of the sinuses, throat, airways or lungs.
They're usually caused by viruses, but can be caused by bacteria.
RTIs are one of the main reasons why people visit a doctor or a chemist in India The common cold is the most commonly reported RTI!
Doctors like to make a distinction between:
Children tend to get more upper RTIs than adults because of a relatively weaker immunity to the viruses that can cause these infections.
How do respiratory infections spread?
RTIs can spread in several ways. If you are suffering from cold, tiny droplets of fluid containing the virus are released into the air whenever you sneeze or cough. Others who breathe it in may also become infected.
Infections also spread through indirect contact. For example, if you have a cold and you touch your nose or eyes before touching an object or surface, the virus may be passed to someone else when they touch that object or surface.
The best way to prevent spreading infections is to practise good hygiene, such as regularly washing your hands with soap and warm water.
Upper respiratory tract infections
Common upper respiratory tract infections include:
A cough is the most common symptom of an upper RTI. Other symptoms include headaches, a stuffy or runny nose, a sore throat, sneezing and muscle aches.
Lower respiratory tract infections
Common lower RTIs include:
As with upper RTIs, the main symptom of a lower RTI is a cough. However, it's usually more severe and you may bring up phlegm (Thick, sticky, substance secreted by the respiratory tract, during a respiratory infection). Other symptoms include feeling of tightness in your chest, an, breathlessness and wheezing.
How can you manage your symptoms at home?
In most cases you don’t need any treatment and you won't usually need to see your GP. Taking over-the-counter painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen, drinking plenty of fluids and resting should be enough.
In most cases, antibiotics aren't recommended because they're only effective if the infection is caused by bacteria.
The symptoms of an upper RTI usually pass within one to two weeks.
When should you visit your doctor?
Visit your GP doctor :
Ask your doctor about any vaccines you can have to help protect against some RTIs.