What are Respiratory Tract Infections: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments

The term Respiratory Tract Infection refers to a wide variety of diseases that affect the respiratory system.

One usual Respiratory Tract Infection (RTI), is the condition known as common cold; a virus or a bacteria causes the disease which affects the respiratory tract including lungs, throat or air passage.

Most widely categorize RTI as Upper Respiratory Tract Infection and Lower Respiratory Tract Infection.

A low respiratory tract infection is an infection that affects the lower respiratory tract or lungs. It is one of the primary causes of illness and death in children and adults around the world.

Some might underestimate the damage lower respiratory tract infections can cause to people because they are not well defined.

Upper respiratory tract infections are a group of diseases that occur in the respiratory system, which different microorganisms such as viruses and bacteria cause.

In most cases, they start suddenly and last for less than two weeks.

They’re the most frequent infection in the world and represents a significant public health issue in our country.

Most of these infections, such as the common cold, are mild, but depending on the general condition of the person, they can bring some complications, which might end up becoming life-threatening, as in the case of pneumonia.

In children younger than five years old, the cause of the infection in 95% of the cases is the virus being good prognosis, but a small percentage could suffer complications such as otitis, sinusitis, and pneumonia.

The National Institute of Health studied serval cases to display the incidence of respiratory viruses from 2010.

During that year, the respiratory syncytial virus caused 62% of the cases studied; followed by Influenza AH1N1 (18%); Parainfluenza (8 %); Influenza A seasonal (6%); Influenza B (3%); and adenoviruses (3%).

The most affected population is those under five years of age, and the main symptoms are fever, malaise, congestion, and nasal discharge, as well as other signs such as a cough, sore throat, sputum, and difficulty breathing.

Major infections include:

ACUTE BRONCHITIS AND BRONCHIOLITIS: It is a short-term infection of the airways that affects 30-50 people out of every 1,000 a year.

Bronchiolitis is a low respiratory tract infection that affects infants and children under two years of age. It is the most common cause of hospital admission of infants under one year of age.

FLU: This condition appears in annual epidemics and, occasionally, pandemics, in which the outbreak covers even larger geographical areas.

The most severe forms of this infection primarily affect people over 65 years, children under two years and people of any age with particular states of health.

Several underlying conditions may increase the risk of hospitalization for influenza. They include diabetes and heart, lung and neurological diseases, including asthma.

PNEUMONIA: It is an infection of the lungs and the most common cause of death from disease in Europe and the United States. Its symptoms last 3-4 weeks and are more common in very young children and the elderly. There are three types of pneumonia:

  • Community-acquired pneumonia (NAC), which people get from contact with the infection in daily life
  • In-hospital pneumonia, which people get from their stay at the hospital for an extended period
  • Pneumonia associated with mechanical ventilation (NAV), acquired after an intervention called endotracheal intubation when a tube is inserted into the trachea to help a person breathe

Lower Respiratory Tract Infection

Lower Respiratory Tract Infections mostly deals with the infections caused in the lungs, bronchi, and trachea.

Mainly due to a less efficient immune system, it usually seems to affect children more than elders.

It is a common problem that may lead to chronic and fatal issues if not taken care of accurately and timely.


Lower Respiratory Tract Infection includes the following symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Shortness of breath
  • Coughing
  • Cold
  • Fatigue
  • Tightness or congestion in chest
  • Wheezing
  • Mucus or phlegm secretion

Signs of alarm in infants.

  • It is necessary to be attentive to the children under five years the following manifestations:
  • Increased respiratory rate or rapid breathing
  • His ribs sink into his breath.
  • There are strange noises when breathing or “whistles the chest.”
  • Don’t want to eat or drink and vomits everything.
  • Fever that does not yield with the administration of medicines.
  • Irritability
  • Decay and drowsiness.
  • Seizures.

In schoolchildren, teenagers, and young adults:

  • Choking or difficulty breathing (or even feeling short of breath).
  • Chest pain when breathing or coughing.
  • Decay or excessive tiredness.
  • Fever higher than 38.5 degrees Celsius, for more than two days.

Causes and Effects

Apart from environmental factors, some recognize genetic factors and family history of ailments as a potential cause of such infections. It may lead to chronic health problems such as:

  • Pneumonia
  • Bronchitis (acute or chronic)
  • Lung abscess
  • Influenza (which occurs because of upper as well as lower respiratory tract infections)
  • Tuberculosis, the bacterial respiratory infection

Treatment and Prevention

In most of the respiratory tract infections, uncomplicated home remedies or antibiotic may provide adequate relief.

However, in more severe cases, when the symptoms are more intense and persistent, you need to consult a doctor or physician as soon as possible.

Besides antibiotics, inhalers, and medication, patients should follow any other necessary treatment along with a restricted lifestyle as prescribed by doctors.

As we all know prevention is better than cure, appropriate preventive measures can be taken to avoid such infection in future.

It includes clean environment and surroundings, vaccinations, probiotics to strengthen the immune system and other such preventive measures.


  • Avoid contact with people with the flu. Patients should use masks and keep their hands clean with proper handwashing with soap and water.
  • If you are a baby under six months of age, give only breast milk in bulk, at least ten times a day.
  • If your child is six months or older, provide fresh, high-nutritional, energy-rich foods (fruits, vegetables, and meats), and give him breast milk.
  • Avoid contact with smokers.
  • To relieve a cough, and sore throat, you should give your child aromatic drinks or tea. If the kid is more than two years old, provide them with honey.
  • Keep nostrils uncovered, if possible apply saline frequently through both nostrils by cleansing secretions.
  • When your child gets exposed to sudden changes in temperature, protect it and cover your nose and mouth.


  • Teach your children how to deal with sneezing: Put a tissue on their nose and mouth when they cough up or sneeze, throw it, and teach them to wash their hands.
  • Do not use medications, antibiotics or cough syrups unless formulated by your doctor.
  • Wash your hands when you have contact with fluids or flu.
  • Ventilate the house and room of the sick daily.
  • Check that your vaccination schedule (children, school children, and adults) is complete for your age.
  • Hydration is the key to control the disease and avoid further complications.