What is an acute respiratory infection?
Acute respiratory infection is an infection of the respiratory system. It interferes with the breathing of the affected individual. It can affect either the lower or the upper parts of the respiratory pathway. If the lower respiratory pathway is affected, the sinuses and the vocal cords will be involved.
The infection starts from the sinuses and travel to the vocal cord. If the upper respiratory part is affected, the vocal cord and the lungs will be involved. The infection moves from the vocal cord right into the lungs.
Acute respiratory infection is very fatal to aged adults, children, and people with autoimmune conditions.
Symptoms of acute respiratory infection
They are type-specific, that is, they are unique to the part of the respiratory system involved. But the following are common to the two – upper and lower respiratory systems:
- Congested lungs or sinuses as the case may be
- A frequent cough
- Sore throat
- Mild to severe body pains
- General body weakness
Should you experience serious difficulty in breathing, feel dizzy, have a fever that’s above 39˚ C or loses consciousness, it’s a pointer that you need to be urgently attended to medically.
Causes of acute respiratory infection
As much as the lower respiratory infection has its causes, the upper respiratory infection equally does. Let’s differentiate these two.
Common causes of an upper respiratory infection:
- acute pharyngeal inflammation
- Acute infection of the ear.
Common causes of a lower respiratory infection:
- Damaged and Inflamed bronchi – bronchitis
- Fluid buildup in the lungs: This is popularly referred to as pneumonia.
- Damaged and inflamed bronchioles: It is known as bronchiolitis.
Risk factors for acute respiratory infection
It’s almost a hard task to completely keep off from viruses and bacteria. There are however some factors that can pose risks towards the development of acute respiratory infection.
Viruses easily find their way into the immune systems of aged adults and children. But children are even more at a risk because of their contacts with other kids in the course of playing. An affected kid can from there, spread it to an uninfected kid. And you know kids are vulnerable to rubbing their eyes, nose, and mouth with their hands. Besides, children are not in the habit of always washing their hands after playing. But there could be some exceptional kids you know: the well-taught ones! These are some of the ways kids can spread viral infections amongst themselves.
Furthermore, it has been discovered that people who have one form of heart disease or the other, as well as those with lung problems, are more susceptible to contracting an acute respiratory infection.
People with a weak immune system are also not exempted from likely having an acute respiratory infection. Smokers are not only susceptible but have a very slim chance of recovering from it upon its development.
Diagnosis of acute respiratory infection
When you are with your doctor for diagnosis, he will begin with a respiratory examination on you. The focus of the examination is on your breathing, fluid in the lungs as well as the presence of inflammation in your lungs. While you breathe, he/she will listen to your breath for abnormal sounds. He will also check your throat by peering into ears or nose.
If your doctor thinks that the problem is in your lower respiratory tract, he will run a CT scan or X-ray on you to validate his speculations.
He can as well carry out certain diagnostic tests on you to assess your lung functions. For instance, he can choose to carry out a test on your lungs to find out how much oxygen you have got there. This test is called pulse oximetry (pulse ox).
To be certain whether you have a virus or bacteria behind your infection, your doctor will take some fluid from your mouth or nose (i.e. sputum) for assessment.
Treatment for acute respiratory infection
You can be helped with medications that can only allow for the close monitoring of the condition. This is because researchers are yet to discover a cure for the infection. If your doctor thinks that you have got some bacterial behind the infection, he will recommend some antibiotics for you.
Complications arising from acute respiratory infection vary. In extreme cases, they can cause the eventual death of affected people when the lungs have been completely damaged. Some of these complications are:
This is primarily due to the pulling of fluids in the lungs. It is equally known as congestive heart failure.
The arrest of breathing otherwise called respiratory arrest. This will happen when the lungs have lost their ability to sustain breathing activities.
When this occurs, carbon dioxide will start building up in the blood due to poor functioning of the lungs. This can precipitate into more serious malfunctioning of the body’s metabolism.
Preventing acute respiratory infection
It is important to know that majority of what causes acute respiratory infections don’t have a treatment. That is why it is strongly advised to take preventive measures against having it especially the children.
Children should be vaccinated against influenza, mumps, Pneumovax, measles, rubella, and pertussis. Those for aged adults can be found out from the healthcare center nearest to you. It will be great if you can inculcate the following into your lifestyle:
- Ensure that you wash your hands regularly, particularly after using public facilities like a toilet. Encourage your kids to do the same.
- See to it that whenever you sneeze, let your palms be over your mouth. And if you have got a tissue or handkerchief handy, that will be fine. This will ensure you don’t spread illnesses that can easily be spread through the air. Encourage your children to do the same.
- Encourage children to stay away from playing with their mouths and eyes. This is to stop them from mistakenly introducing disease-causing agents into their bodies.
- Smoke no longer!
- Eat a vitamin-rich diet, especially those rich in vitamin C. It’s especially good for the body’s immunity.