Lower Respiratory Infections

Lower Respiratory Infections

Lower respiratory tract infection (LRTI) is a term used to refer to acute infection of what makes up the lower respiratory system (the lungs, trachea (windpipe) and the airways). Common lower respiratory tract infections include pneumonia, bronchitis and coup. Although a disease such as influenza (the flu) affects parts of the lower respiratory system, it is not considered an LTRI. These infections are more prevalent during the winter because during this season most people tend to remain indoors and end up sharing the same re-circulated air and this includes germs. Although the symptoms vary from one type to another, the most common symptoms of lower respiratory infections include:

  • Increase fatigue
  • Runny nose
  • Sore throat
  • Cough
  • Nasal congestion
  • Lethargy
  • Fever
  • Shortness of breath 

According to the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) there were more than 250million reported cases of LRTIs globally and these resulted in more than 2.5 million deaths. Most deaths occurred in low and middle income countries. Most LRTI infections are caused by viruses except Pneumonia which is a result of an infection by the streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria. These infections can be spread through several ways, if you are infected, tiny droplets packed with virus are launched into the air whenever you speak, sneeze or cough. If another person breathes in these droplets they could also become infected.

How to avoid Lower respiratory tract infection

Although these diseases kill millions annually they are simple precautions that can help getting infected and also prevent spreading the infection from one person to another. Here are some preventative measures that will come in handy:

If you are unwell stay home

When you are suffering from the flu or a cold (influence) or any other lower respiratory infection, it is advisable to seek medical attention immediately and then remain home until you feel much better. Getting enough res will hep you get over the infection quicker and also means that you will not spread the infection to other people.

Consider vaccination against the flu

Simply getting vaccinated annually just before the start of winter will come in handy in protecting you from getting infected with the flu. The best thing about getting vaccinated is that each year it is different; it is specifically tailored to contain the strains that are prevalent. Being vaccinated not only protects you from this illness, but also protects everyone in your community as a whole (reducing the number of people who contract the flu will reduce how it is passed from one person to another). It is partcularly important to get vaccinated if you are in constant contact with people who can become seriously sick if they get the flu such as old people and children.

Effective ways to avoid spreading lower respiratory tract infections

Although these diseases are highly infectious, the spread can be prevented simply by:

  • Regularly wash hands using clean water and soap; this is especially important after visiting the toilet. Before preparing food, after blowing your nose and after changing diapers
  • Sneezing and coughing into a tissue
  • Always cover your mouth when coughing or sneezing especially if you have a flu
  • Keeping your hands away from your mouth, nose and eyes
  • Avoid sharing cutlery, glasses and cups when drinking or eating
  • All household surfaces should be wiped clean using bleach to kill bacteria and germs
  • Self care can helps

Using the following self care techniques, you can treat LRTIs

  • Non-steroidal inflammatory drugs and paracetamol like ibuprofen will help to relieve symptoms of fever and pain
  • Drink plenty of fluids to remain hydrated. Water is best but warm drinks are great since they can be very soothing
  • Rest and avoid any strenuous activity
  • Ensure you rest in a room where fresh air is circulating and the room temperature is comfortable
  • Consider taking a cough medicine as this will help sooth a dry or ticklish cough. It is better to seek medical attention, however; if you prefer over the counter medication it is advisable to follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully
  • Avoid smoke because it irritates the throat and nose increasing the level of discomfort, this will require sating away from people who smoke and staying away from smoke filled environments. If such infections keep occurring and you are smoker then consider quitting the habit completely.