Even with today’s modern medical technology, most of us cannot avoid occasional respiratory infections . Without strict adherence to sanitary protocol, a situation of collapse of your entire community would be very easy, contracting colds, sinusitis, flu or pneumonia. Common colds can be caused by any of 200 different viruses, but the most likely cause is a type of rhinovirus. Influenza comes from viruses in Influenza Category A, B, and C.

Deaths associated with influenza

The social risk of influenza is important, especially for type A influenza viruses . Over time, flu outbreaks in this category include:

  • Russian flu in 1889-90 (1 million deaths)
  • The Spanish flu in 1918 (50-100 million deaths)
  • The 1957-8 Asian Flu (1-1.5 million deaths)
  • Hong Kong flu in 1968-9 (750,000 deaths)
  • Swine flu in the period 2009-2010 (18,000 deaths)

Most of these influenza-associated deaths are caused due to bacterial pneumonia , a secondary infection that invades the patient through a weakened immune system.

In general, most respiratory infections are spread by viral particles, and the organisms that cause these infections can live for up to 48 hours on common household surfaces, such as kitchen counters, door handles, etc.

Contagious viral particles can easily travel 4 to 6 feet when a person sneezes.

Respiratory infections

Respiratory problems are generally divided into upper and lower respiratory infections. The upper airway is considered to be anything at the level of the vocal cords (larynx) or higher.

Often times, the doctor’s diagnosis will be related to the part of the upper respiratory system affected. This includes:

  1. The nose: Rhinitis
  2. Throat: pharyngitis
  3. The paranasal sinuses: Sinusitis
  4. The voice box: laryngitis
  5. Epiglottis: Epiglottitis
  6. Tonsils: tonsillitis
  7. The ear canal: Otitis

The lower respiratory tract includes the lower trachea, the airways (collectively called the “bronchi”), and the lungs themselves. Respiratory infections, such as bronchitis and pneumonia , are the most common cause of infectious diseases in developed countries.

Difference between influenza and the common cold

Symptoms of the common cold can include fever, cough, sore throat, runny nose (rhinitis), nasal congestion, headaches, and sneezing.

Symptoms of lower respiratory infections (pneumonia and some bronchitis) include coughing (with phlegm, known as a “productive” cough), high fever, shortness of breath, and weakness / fatigue.

Most respiratory infections begin to show symptoms 1 to 3 days after exposure to the causative agent and last 7 to 10 days if it is higher and longer if somewhat lower.

There are differences between the common cold and the flu that are helpful in making a diagnosis:

Although upper respiratory infections are caused by viruses , some sore throats can be caused by bacteria called Streptococcus beta. These patients often have white patches on the back of their throat and / or tonsils.

In most cases, however, it is not appropriate to use antibacterial agents, such as antibiotics for upper respiratory infections.

Antibiotics have been overused in the treatment of these problems, and this has led to resistance by some organisms to the most common drugs.

Resistance has rendered some of the old antibiotics almost useless in treating many diseases. Do not self-medicate, if there is a professional doctor available, seek it out.

Lower respiratory infections

Lower respiratory infections, such as pneumonia, are the most common cause of death from infectious disease in developed countries. These can be caused by viruses or bacteria.

The more serious nature of these infections leads many practitioners to use antibiotics more frequently to treat the condition. An example of pandemic pneumonia in history is pneumonic plague, caused by the highly contagious and invasive bacterium Yersinia pestis, which could decimate entire populations.

Most bronchitis and pneumonia are caused by viruses.

Patients who are at risk will develop worsening and shortness of breath or more phlegm over time despite standard therapy.

Upper respiratory infections

Upper and lower respiratory infections are different from asthma, which is a condition in which the airways narrow in a type of spasm, causing a particularly vocal kind of breathing called “wheezing.”

Asthma can occur as an allergic response, or it can be associated with some respiratory infections. Asthma treatment consists of different medications.

How to carry a respiratory hygiene

Proper respiratory hygiene is important to prevent patients with respiratory infections from transmitting the infection to others.

Practicing good hygiene is not only a good strategy for you and your family, but it demonstrates social responsibility and could prevent a pandemic. This is what needs to be done:

  1. Sick people should cover their mouth and nose with tissue pape l and pull these tissues safely.
  2. Use a mask in case of coughing.
  3. Although others who care for sick people may wear masks (N95 masks are best for healthcare providers), it is more important that the affected person wear one.
  4. Caregivers have to perform rigorous hand hygiene care before and after contact. Wash with warm soapy water for 15 seconds or clean your hands with alcohol-based hand sanitizers if they don’t appear dirty.
  5. Sick people should keep at least 1.5 meters approx. away from other people, if possible, due to the spreading droplet.
  6. Wash all possibly contaminated surfaces like doorknobs or kitchen counters with a disinfectant.
  7. Isolate the sick person in a specific quarantine zone, especially if he / she has a high fever.

By Dr. Eric Jackson

Dr. Eric Jackson provides primary Internal Medicine care for men and women and treats patients with bone and mineral diseases, diabetes, heart conditions, and other chronic illnesses.He is a Washington University Bone Health Program physician and is a certified Bone Densitometrist. Dr. Avery is consistently recognized in "The Best Doctors in America" list.

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