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21 January, 2019 00:00 00 AM

Respiratory tract infections

Respiratory tract infections

Respiratory tract infections are infections that occur anywhere in the respiratory tract. Parts of the body that we use in the breathing process are referred to as the respiratory tract. The infection can be caused by bacteria, a virus or even fungi. They are a common cause of infection. The commonest respiratory tract infection is the common cold.

The parts of the respiratory tract is usually classified as belonging to two categories

1. Upper respiratory tract

2. Lower respiratory tract

Upper respiratory tract

 The upper respiratory tract consists of:

the nose

the sinuses - air-filled cavities that are found inside the cheekbones and forehead

the mouth including the tonsils

the throat

the pharynx - which is at the back of the throat

the larynx or voice box

Infections of the upper respiratory tract include:

the common cold- affecting the nose, throat, and chest

sore throat  - usually due to an infection of the pharynx (pharyngitis)

tonsillitis - infection of the tonsils

sinusitis - infection of the sinuses

laryngitis - infection of the larynx

influenza (widespread infection which can affect the nose, throat and, occasionally, part of the lungs)

whooping cough (pertussis)

Lower respiratory tract

The lower respiratory tract consists of:

 the trachea or windpipe which is the tube that connects the throat to the lungs

the bronchi - the two branches that the trachea divides into as it enters the lungs

bronchioles - the tiny airways that are found throughout the lungs

the alveoli - tiny air sacs at the end of the bronchioles

Infections of the lower respiratory tract include:

bronchitis - infection of the bronchi

bronchiolitis- infection of the small airways or bronchioles

croup -infection of the trachea or windpipe in children

influenza -widespread infection of the upper and lower respiratory tract including the nose, throat and, occasionally, bronchi and lungs)

pneumonia- infection of the alveoli and surrounding lung tissue)

There are also certain types of infection, such as flu, that can affect both the upper and lower respiratory tract.

When and who does it affect?

Since bacteria and viruses can easily enter the respiratory tract during the act of breathing, the respiratory tract is much more vulnerable to infection than other parts of the body. Infections of the respiratory tract are more common in winter than other months perhaps because people are more likely to stay indoors and in close contact with other people in winter. Children are affected more than adults as their immunity is not as good and well developed as adults.

People who need special care

Most respiratory infections clear quickly without the need for special treatment. However, some people may be more vulnerable to complications and need extra care. This includes:

the very young

the elderly

people with a pre-existing lung condition

people with a weakened immune system

Symptoms

Upper respiratory tract infection

Most symptoms last for one to two weeks. Cough is the most common symptom of an upper respiratory tract infection. Other symptoms include:

headaches

stuffed or runny nose

sore throat

sneezing

muscle aches and pain

Lower respiratory tract infections

Just like the symptoms of upper respiratory tract, the main symptom of a lower respiratory tract infection is a cough, but it is usually productive, more severe and sometimes the mucous is blood stained. Other symptoms of a lower respiratory tract infection include:

a feeling of tightness in the chest

breathlessness

wheezing

sore throat

fever and chills

headaches

blocked nose and sinuses

aches and pains

Seeking medical advice

Most respiratory tract infections do not require medical attention and can be treated at home.

However, you will need to visit your GP if:

You are coughing up bloody mucus and phlegm.

You are feeling very sick and unwell.

You have a pre-existing heart, lung, liver, or kidney condition.

You have a condition that affects your nervous system, such as multiple sclerosis.

You have cystic fibrosis.

You have a weakened immune system. (Reprint)

Courtesy: CANZAPS

 

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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