Respiratory infections make millions of people miserable every single day. As we all know, there’s nothing more irritating and energy draining than not being able to breathe comfortably. With that in mind, it’s helpful to know what exactly a respiratory infection is and where it comes from to maximize your health and happiness.
What is a respiratory tract infection?
Respiratory tract infections (RTI) are simply defined as any infection that affects the lungs, throat, airways, or sinuses. For the less fortunate, it can often be an infection of several of these at the same time to double your misery.
To further classify this ailment, doctors typically divide RTIs into two groups: Upper respiratory infections and Lower respiratory infections. An upper RTI encompasses the nose, head, sinuses and throat while a lower RTI generally affects the lungs and airways.
RTIs are often attributed as the ‘common cold’ or flu, especially since they can be caused by both bacteria and viruses. Because of this, it’s also one of the most common reasons for visiting the doctor to ease symptoms and get prescriptions for antibiotics when appropriate.
However, as a general guide, upper RTIs usually consist of tonsillitis, laryngitis, or sinusitis. Some of the more common lower RTIs include pneumonia, bronchitis, or bronchiolitis.
How do you get a respiratory tract infection?
As any office worker or teacher knows, colds and infections spread fast and furiously. Since RTIs can either viral or bacterial, they are particularly savvy at transferring from one host to the next. Children are especially susceptible since they lack the immunity of antibodies and defenses found in most adults.
The most obvious and preventable method that RTIs are spread is through direct or indirect contact of someone already infected. Indirect contact is the trickier of the two since it can happen through something as innocent as a sick person who has rubbed their eyes or nose and touched the same object as you.
As the name implies, RTIs can also be airborne and pulled directly into the lungs or airway. This is why it’s imperative to cover your mouth when sneezing or coughing when you have an RTI.
While it’s virtually impossible to completely avoid RTIs, with good personal hygiene and regular hand washing, you can substantially minimize your chances of getting and spreading respiratory infections.
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