Respiratory tract infections (RTIs) can affect both children and adults and are more common in the winter months, when cold season hits. Young kids are at risk for suffering serious effects of such an illness, as bronchiolitis and pneumonia can wreak havoc on their immune systems.1 It's important to recognize the symptoms of these health issues, so that you can obtain medical attention as soon as possible, if necessary. Plus, any steps that can be taken to prevent the onset of respiratory infections can be extremely beneficial to children in particular.
Lower and upper respiratory tracts
Infections can affect both the upper (nose, sinuses and throat) and lower (airways and lungs) respiratory tracts. When an individual comes down with the cold, the virus can spread throughout the respiratory system and cause further issues. These germs are also easily spread from person-to-person, especially when poor hygiene is practiced.
A lower respiratory tract infection can include the flu, bronchitis, pneumonia and tuberculosis. Coughing, phlegm and mucus are some of the most common symptoms associated with lower RTIs. You may also experience tightness in the chest, breathlessness, wheezing and a quickened breathing pace.
As for upper respiratory tract infections, a common cold can lead to tonsillitis, sinusitis, laryngitis and the flu – meaning that an upper RTI may infect the lower respiratory tract as well. In addition to a cough, you are likely to experience headaches, nasal congestion, a sore throat, sneezing and achy muscles if you have an upper RTI.2
Although both of these illnesses may be treated effectively with over-the-counter medications, that isn't always the case.
Prevention and treatment
Although there are some vaccinations (the flu shot!) available that can decrease your likelihood for coming down with a respiratory tract infection, there are additional preventative measures you can take. Of course, you'll wait to avoid others who are ill whenever possible, as well as wash your hands on a regular basis during cold and flu season.3 You may also benefit from an increase in your vitamin D intake.4
If you have symptoms that just won't go away or are suffering from another major medical issue, it's time to head to your doctor's office. He or she will be able to prescribe you with the necessary medications for a successful recovery. Otherwise, make sure to get plenty of rest, drink a lot of fluids and stay away from others – in order to prevent infection to someone else. You should make sure that any surfaces you have contact with are cleaned with antibacterial products to avoid spreading the germs to your family members.
Medex Supply provides a variety of respiratory supplies to both individuals and health care professionals to help treat RTIs. You can also find a number of other useful products that help prevent infection via their online medical supply store.
1 National Institutes of Health, "Lower respiratory tract infections" December 2009
2 National Health Service, "Respiratory tract infections" April 4, 2013
3 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "The pre-travel consultation" August 1, 2013
4 Cleveland Clinic, "Upper respiratory tract infections" August 2013