Lower Respiratory Infections: An Overview
Lower respiratory tract infections are defined as infections in the lung or the area below the voice box. The term might be unfamiliar to some of you, but the infections that are classified under this category are fairly common. These include pneumonia, bronchitis, and tuberculosis. The lower respiratory infections normally have a resemblance to the common cold, the symptoms of both conditions often overlap. We will talk about these symptoms as this discussion moves on, and that’s one of the many things on agenda tonight! You can think of this discussion as a comprehensive summary of lower respiratory infections. A brief that talks about every important aspect of this healthcare challenge!
Upper vs. Lower Respiratory Infections
Before we dive deep into the details of lower respiratory infections, we must distinguish between upper and lower respiratory infections. Certain key differences can help us in this regard. Let us start with the area that is affected. We are sure that you cracked that anyways, so we will spare you the details! However, a key point to keep in mind here is that lower respiratory infections target airways below the larynx while upper respiratory infections are more common in structures above the larynx.
Of course, there are other differences as well. We have already mentioned the common lower respiratory infections, but what about the upper respiratory infections? Well, some of the common upper respiratory infections include common colds, tonsillitis, laryngitis, and infections of sinuses. It is also pertinent to mention here that the symptoms of lower respiratory infections are less intense as compared to upper respiratory infections. Compare coughing vs body aches as an example! But of course, the severity of symptoms varies from patient to patient depending upon the infection stage and certain other patient-specific factors.
As mentioned earlier, one of the key symptoms of lower respiratory infections is coughing, or as we should say dry cough. However, that is not the only symptom though. Certain other symptoms like runny nose, sore throat, headache, body fever, chest pain, and irregular breathing can also give a clue about a lower respiratory infection. Because some of these symptoms overlap with those of upper respiratory infections, relying on symptoms only for diagnosis is not a recommended approach.
We will talk about the diagnosis bit in a bit, but for now, let us focus on the causes and risk factors of lower respiratory infections. Primarily, viruses like the Respiratory Syncytial Virus are responsible for these infections. However, certain bacteria like the Streptococcus aureus species can cause these infections as well, as do certain fungi.
Sometimes, the reason for a lower respiratory infection isn’t a microorganism. Rather, non-living environmental agents can cause these infections as well. Here, we are talking about agents like tobacco smoke, dust, chemicals, vapours, and certain allergens in the air. As for the risk factors that can increase the susceptibility to lower respiratory infections, these include flu, surgeries, and being under 5 or over 65 years of age. Please keep in mind that it is not an exhaustive list by any means, but one that is good enough for the sake of this discussion!
Diagnosis of a Lower Respiratory Infection
We now switch the focus of this discussion towards a key point in the chapter on lower respiratory infections. Diagnosis. An examination conducted in the presence of the patient’s doctors reveals whether or not a patient is suffering from a lower respiratory infection. During this examination, a patient’s breathing is monitored, the typical ritual of listening to the chest with the help of a stethoscope is performed as well during this exam. However, to establish the presence of a lower respiratory infection conclusively, certain tests are ordered as well. These include chest X-rays, viral and bacterial detection tests, and tests like pulse oximetry that give a clue about the percentage of oxygen in the blood.
We often write prevention is better than treatment and then just completely bypass the idea. To make sure that you follow preventive measures so that you don’t have to look for treatment options later, we are going to discuss preventive measures before treatment. Clever, isn’t it? Thank you for the praise, but we want you to focus on preventive measures now, praises can wait!
- Wash your hands regularly
- Stay away from the proximity of people who have respiratory infections
- Disinfect surfaces regularly
- Getting flu shots every year is mandatory
- MMR and pneumococcal vaccine shots are important as well
- Avoid environmental agents that we mentioned earlier in the discussion as well e.g. fumes.
Treating a Lower Respiratory Infection
Sometimes, these infections will go away on just their own. But sometimes they won’t, which is why you need to read this section with great attention. When the lower respiratory infections are mild, you can rely on over-the-counter medicines for cough & fever. Drinking fluids will help your cause greatly as well. But visiting the doctor is the only option when things get out of hand. It is a must to get your doctor on board if you are over 65 years of age, have a weakened immune system, or are guardians of an infant who is suffering from a lower respiratory infection.
Treatment costs are normally minimal when it comes to lower respiratory infections. But when things become too complicated, then the costs can soar as well. The increased expenditures become a tough ask for the underprivileged patients who often have to rely on healthcare NGOs like Transparent Hands for funding their treatment.
Transparent Hands is a platform for crowdfunding in the healthcare sector of Pakistan. It offers a complete range of free healthcare services including medical and surgical treatments, medical camps, and telehealth facilities to the underprivileged community of Pakistan. The platform provides visibility to underprivileged patients and builds a personal and trusted bond between patients and donors while ensuring complete transparency. It also sets up free medical camps in the rural areas of Pakistan in which, free medical consultation, free medicines, and free diagnostic tests are provided to deserving patients.
Donors from all over the world can use the Transparent Hands crowdfunding web portal and donate through 100% secure payment modes. They could select any patient, fund the treatment, and receive regular feedback and updates until the patient has recovered completely.