Acute respiratory infection - Thumbay University Hospital

Acute respiratory infection

What is acute respiratory infection?

An acute respiratory infection is an infection that may interfere with the normal breathing. It can affect only the upper respiratory tract, which begins in the sinuses and ends at the vocal cords, or only the lower respiratory tract, which begins at the vocal cords and ends at your lungs.


This infection is especially dangerous for children, the elderly, and people with compromised immune systems.

What are the symptoms of acute respiratory infection?

The symptoms you experience will be different if it is an infection in the lower or upper respiratory tract. Symptoms can include:

  • Congestion, either in the sinuses or the lungs
  • Runny nose
  • cough
  • sore throat
  • body aches
  • fatigue

Call your doctor if you experience:

  • Fever over 39°C and chills
  • breathing difficulties
  • Dizziness
  • Unconsciousness

What causes acute respiratory infection?

There are several different causes of the acute respiratory infection.

Causes of an upper respiratory infection:

  • Acute pharyngitis
  • acute ear infection
  • Catch cold

Causes of lower respiratory infection:

  • Bronchitis
  • Pneumonia
  • bronchiolitis

Who is at risk for acute respiratory infection?

Viruses and bacteria are almost impossible to avoid, but certain risk factors increase the chances of developing acute respiratory infections.

The immune systems of children and the elderly are more susceptible to being affected by viruses.

Children are especially at risk because of their constant contact with other children who could be carriers of viruses. Children often do not wash their hands regularly in daily life. They are also more likely to rub their eyes and put their fingers in their mouths, which leads to the spread of viruses.

People with heart disease or other lung problems are more likely to develop acute respiratory infections. Anyone whose immune system is weakened by another disease is at risk. Smokers are also at higher risk and have greater recovery problems.

How is acute respiratory infection diagnosed?

In a respiratory examination, the doctor focuses on your breathing. They will check for the fluid and inflammation in the lungs by listening for the abnormal sounds in your lungs when you breathe. The doctor may look at your nose and ears and examine your throat.

If your doctor thinks the infection is in the lower respiratory tract, an X-ray or CT scan to check the condition of the lungs may be necessary.

Pulmonary function tests have been useful as diagnostic tools. A pulse oximeter, also known as a pulse oximeter, can check the amount of oxygen reaching the lungs. The doctor may also take a swab from your nose or mouth, or ask you to cough up a sample of sputum (material coughed up from the lungs) to check for the type of virus or bacteria causing the illness.

How is acute respiratory infection treated?

With so many viruses, there are no known cures. Your doctor may prescribe medications to control your symptoms while monitoring your condition. If your doctor suspects you may have a bacterial infection, he or she may prescribe antibiotics.

The possible complications of the acute respiratory infection

Complications of acute respiratory infection are very serious and can lead to permanent damage and even death. They include:

  • respiratory arrest, which occurs when the lungs stop working
  • Respiratory failure, a rise in carbon dioxide in the blood because your lungs are not working properly
  • congestive heart failure
  • Prevent acute respiratory infections

Most causes of acute respiratory infection cannot be cured. Therefore, prevention is the best way to ward off harmful respiratory infections.

Getting the MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) and whooping cough vaccine will greatly reduce your risk of developing a respiratory infection. You may also benefit from the flu shot and pneumothorax.

Practice good health habits:

  • Wash your hands frequently, especially after you have been in the public place.
  • Always sneeze into the arm of your shirt or into a tissue. Although this may not relieve your symptoms, it will prevent you from spreading infectious diseases.
  • Avoid touching your face, especially your eyes and the mouth, to prevent germs from entering your system.

You should also avoid smoking and make sure to include plenty of vitamins in your diet, such as vitamin C, which helps boost your immune system. Vitamin C is retained in immune cells, and vitamin C deficiency has been linked to an increased susceptibility to infections. While the research is unclear whether vitamin C can prevent acute respiratory infections, there is evidence that it can shorten the duration and/or severity of some infections.

What causes acute upper respiratory infection?

Both viruses and bacteria can cause severe URIs:

  • Viruses
  • flu
  • glandular
  • coxsackie virus
  • parainfluenza virus
  • respiratory syncytial virus
  • human kinetic virus
  • bacteria
  • Group A beta-hemolytic streptococci
  • Group C beta-hemolytic streptococci
  • Corynebacterium diphtheria
  • Neisseria gonorrhea (gonorrhea)
  • Pulmonary chlamydia (chlamydia)

What are the types of the acute upper respiratory infection?

The types of URIs refer to the parts of the upper respiratory tract most closely associated with infection. In addition to the common cold, there are other types of the URIs:

1. Sinusitis

Sinusitis is an inflammation of the sinuses.

2. Epiglottitis

Epiglottitis is inflammation of the epiglottis, the upper part of the windpipe. It protects the airway from foreign particles that can enter the lungs. Swelling of the epiglottis is dangerous because it can block airflow into the windpipe.

3. Laryngitis

Laryngitis is an inflammation of the larynx or larynx.

4. Bronchitis

Bronchitis is inflammation of the airways. The left and right bronchi branch off from the trachea and pass to the right and left lungs.