Lower respiratory tract infection is a frequent medical problem that impacts millions of people each year. This infection is caused by several viruses, bacteria, or fungi and affects the lower respiratory system, including the bronchi, lungs, and trachea. Lower respiratory tract infections can affect people of all ages, but children, the elderly, and people with impaired immune systems are at a higher risk of developing this infection.
Lower respiratory tract infections cause difficulties breathing and, if left untreated, can be fatal. To minimize further health concerns, early diagnosis, and treatment are critical. As a result, it is essential to detect the symptoms and seek medical assistance as soon as possible. This article will examine lower respiratory tract infections, from causes to symptoms and treatments to prevention.
What is Lower Respiratory Tract Infection?
Lower Respiratory Tract Infection is an infection of the airways in the body. These infections manifest below the larynx (voice box), including the trachea and alveolar sacs in the lungs.
Several viruses and bacteria typically cause lower respiratory tract infections. Because LRTI is viral, it can quickly spread from one person to another through close contact.
A lower respiratory tract infection usually lasts 7 to 21 days. Lower respiratory infections that continue more than 21 days, on the other hand, may be an indication of a severe lower respiratory tract infection. As a result, it is usually essential to seek medical attention as soon as the patient notices symptoms.
Types of Lower Respiratory Tract Infections
Lower respiratory tract infections can come in a variety of forms. It is determined by the type of virus or bacteria that causes them. Several of them can be treated. Yet, if left untreated for an extended period, they might lead to serious health consequences.
The following are the most common forms of lower respiratory infections:
- Pneumonia is a contamination of the lower respiratory tract in which the air sacs in the lungs fill with pus or fluids. This disorder may cause inflammation in one or both lungs. Individuals with compromised immune systems and babies are especially vulnerable to pneumonia.
- Bronchitis is defined as swelling in the lining of the bronchial tubes, most notably the significant airways. Bronchial tubes take air into and out of the lungs. Bronchitis is most common in older people and children under five.
- Bronchiolitis is an inflammation of the lungs, particularly the tiny airways. Bronchiolitis is most frequent in children under the age of two.
- Tuberculosis is an infectious disease that predominantly affects the lungs. However, tuberculosis can affect persons of any age.
Acute exacerbations of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or chronic bronchitis (AECB) and acute bronchiectasis are two further Chronic Lower Respiratory Tract infections.
Lower respiratory tract infection symptoms vary depending on the severity of the infection.
Symptoms of less severe infections may cause:
- Congested or runny nose
- Dry cough
- Low fever
- Mild sore throat
- Dull headache
Symptoms of more serious infections may include:
- Severe Cough That May Produce Phlegm
- Difficulty Breathing
- A Blue Tint To The Skin
- Rapid Breathing
- Chest Pain
Viruses and bacteria are what cause lower respiratory infections. The type of bacteria or virus, on the other hand, is determined by the specific lower respiratory tract condition.
It is caused mainly by the following factors:
- Bacteria include Mycoplasma pneumoniae and Streptococcus pneumoniae (pneumococcus), Hemophilus influenzae, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and others.
- Influenza and respiratory syncytial virus are examples of viruses (RSV).
- A fungus infection
Aside from this, environmental and artificial factors contribute to lower respiratory tract infections. These are the following:
- Pollution of the atmosphere
- Tobacco use
- fumes and vapors
Various risk factors increase a person’s chances of developing lower respiratory infections. Lower risk factors for respiratory tract infection include:
- Immune system deficiency
- Being over the age of 65
- Being under the age of five
- Recently performed surgery
- A recent cold or influenza
Lower respiratory tract infections are uncomplicated. However, when complications occur, they can be severe.
Complications of lower respiratory tract infections can contain:
- Congestive heart failure
- Respiratory arrest
- Respiratory failure
- Sepsis (a blood infection that can lead to organ shutdown)
- Lung abscesses
A primary care physician often diagnoses lower respiratory tract infections based on symptoms and a physical examination. During the physical examination, the doctor will listen to the patient’s breathing tone and pattern and review the patient’s history to identify any previous respiratory ailment.
However, the doctor may also do several medical tests to discover the cause of the patient’s lower respiratory tract infection. Here are a few examples:
- Blood tests: To determine vital signs and the presence of bacteria or viruses in the blood.
- Sputum test: To aid in the identification of the type of bacteria or virus causing lower respiratory tract illness.
- Pulse oximetry: This test determines the amount of oxygen in the patient’s bloodstream since a lower respiratory tract infection causes difficulty breathing.
- Swab test: To confirm the possibility of a lower respiratory tract infection.
- CT scans and chest X-rays: To diagnose diseases like pneumonia and bronchitis.
Heart tests like Echocardiogram and Electrocardiogram can also be performed to rule out any chances of cardiac diseases.
Some lower respiratory tract infections resolve on their own. Some less severe infections of the respiratory system can be treated at home with:
- Over-the-counter cough and fever drugs
- Plenty of rest
- Drinking plenty of water
A doctor may also recommend further treatment in some instances. For example, antibiotics for bacterial infections or breathing therapies, such as inhalers, may be included.
Sometimes, a person may require hospitalization for IV fluids, antibiotics, or breathing assistance.
Infants and young children may require more treatment than older or healthy adults.
Physicians often closely monitor infants at a higher risk of acute infections, such as premature infants or infants with congenital heart abnormalities. As a result, a doctor may be more likely to prescribe hospitalization in certain instances.
Doctors might also propose similar treatment for persons aged 65 and up and those with compromised immune systems.
Combat lower respiratory tract infections at home with remedies like steam inhalation, salt water gargling, ginger consumption, and saline nasal drops.
Rejuvenate with Ayurvedic remedies like Tulsi, Neem, and Giloy for lower respiratory tract infections.
Lower respiratory tract infections are highly contagious, especially in young children and the elderly. Yet, there are several criteria that, if implemented, can help to prevent lower respiratory tract infections. To avoid lower respiratory tract infection, observe the crucial measures stated below:
- Hands should be washed frequently, especially before eating.
- Keep your distance from an infected person.
- When sneezing or coughing, cover your mouth.
- Get vaccine shots, such as MMR and pneumococcal immunizations.
- Avoid allergies, smoking, chemicals, and other potentially dangerous things that can increase the chance of developing LRTI.
- Avoid going to an LRTI prevalent area.
- Avoid contacting anything that could be contaminated with bacteria or viruses.
- Tobacco chewing should be avoided.
- Avoid smoking and consuming alcohol.
Lower respiratory tract infection is a frequent medical illness that can produce mild to severe respiratory system symptoms. Therefore, quick diagnosis and treatment are critical to avoid severe health issues, especially for people at a higher risk of developing the infection. In addition, lower respiratory tract infections can be avoided by practicing good respiratory hygiene and vaccinating against influenza and pneumonia.