Identifying Causes, Symptoms & Treatment of Respiratory Tract Infections


Identifying Causes, Symptoms & Treatment of Respiratory Tract Infections

Any kind of infection only brings misery and helplessness. Infections related to respiration are terrible infections as they restrict your respiratory system, resulting in discomfort and pain. Respiratory tract infection is the most widespread infection these days. The respiratory tract consists of all the organs involved in breathing, affecting the lungs, airways, sinuses, and throat. 

Viruses, bacteria, mycoplasma, and fungi attack the respiratory system and cause respiratory problems. It is a communicable infection as bacteria or viruses can easily enter the tract when people inhale or come into contact with infected patients. People are more prone to get infected with RTI during winter. If treated well and in time, respiratory infections can be cured completely. But, delays in treatment can cause serious infections and life-threatening situations.

In this article, you can learn about the symptoms, treatment and causes of respiratory tract infections– lower respiratory tract infection and upper respiratory tract infection.

Lower Respiratory Tract Infections 

Lower Respiratory Tract Infections primarily affect the lower parts of the respiratory system, including the lungs, trachea and bronchi. One may suffer pneumonia (both bacterial and viral), bronchiolitis and bronchitis due to lower respiratory tract infection.

Causes of Lower Respiratory Tract Infections 

Various microorganisms cause lower respiratory tract infections. The common causes include-


Bacterial infection is one of the most common causes of LRTIs. These infections result in Chlamydia pneumoniae, streptococcus pneumoniae (pneumococcus), Mycoplasma pneumoniae, Legionella pneumophila and Haemophilus influenzae.


Viral infection is another common cause of LRTIs after bacterial infection. Influenza viruses, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), rhinoviruses (cause of the common cold), and coronaviruses (e.g., causing COVID-19) can lead to viral pneumonia and bronchitis. 


Not as common as viral and bacterial infections, fungal infections like pneumocystis jirovecii can harm the lower respiratory tract, especially in people with weak immune systems. 

Other Pathogens

A few LRTIs can be caused by unusual pathogens, such as mycobacterium tuberculosis (causing tuberculosis) and many parasites. .

Environmental Factors

Once exposed to pollutants, toxic gases or irritants, you become more prone to LRTIs. 

However, it's important to know that the particular cause of an LRTI may vary, and the severity and treatment of the infection may differ depending on the microorganism. Proper diagnosis and appropriate medical care are essential for managing these infections.

>> Also Read: 5 Best Ways to Prevent Respiratory Diseases

Symptoms of Lower Respiratory Tract Infection

Lower respiratory infection symptoms may vary according to the severity of one's condition. Here are the symptoms of both less severe and more severe conditions-

If you have a less severe infection, you may experience the following symptoms-

  • A runny or stuffed nose (common cold)
  • A dry cough
  • A low fever
  • A mild sore throat
  • A mild headache

In severe infection, symptoms are-

  • A high fever
  • A severe cough with phlegm
  • Breathlessness or difficulty breathing
  • Blue tinted skin
  • Fast breathing
  • Pain in chest
  • Constant Wheezing

Lower Respiratory Tract Infection Treatment

You may not need treatment as lower respiratory tract infection goes away on its own in a few cases.

However, you can treat these less severe infections at home with the help of the following practices mentioned below-

  • Over-the-counter medicines for a fever and cough
  • Plenty of rest
  • Drinking plenty of water/fluids

In a few cases, your doctor may recommend additional treatment that includes antibiotics for bacterial infections or an inhaler to treat breathing. You may also have to visit the hospital for IV fluids and antibiotics.

Upper Respiratory Tract Infections

An upper respiratory infection affects the upper part of your respiratory system, consisting of the nose, sinuses, mouth, throat, pharynx, and larynx (voice box) in the upper part of the respiratory system.

Causes of Upper Respiratory Tract Infections

Viruses and bacteria cause upper respiratory tract infection and is contagious. When someone is infected with the URTI, coughs and sneezes, the droplets of saliva may contaminate surfaces that other people touch and then touch their eyes, nose, or mouth, which may develop the infection.

Other Risk Factors of Upper Respiratory Tract Infection

  • Not washing hands frequently
  • Smoking 
  • Being in crowded places such as public transports
  • Spending time in hospitals
  • Damaged airways of the nasal cavity
  • Removal of tonsils or adenoids
  • Autoimmune conditions

Symptoms of Upper Respiratory Tract Infection

While there are different types of viral upper respiratory tract infection, there are a few common symptoms that many people experience-

  • Discomfort in nasal passages
  • Coughing and sneezing
  • A mild fever
  • Runny nose and nasal congestion 
  • Pressure or pain in the face
  • Sore throat
  • Bad smelling breath
  • Bodyache
  • Headache
  • Loss of sense of smell
  • Dry and itchy eyes

Upper Respiratory Tract Infection Treatment

Infection may resolve without any upper respiratory tract infection supportive therapy as the symptoms may be easy to treat at home or mild. However, if left untreated, these infections may end up causing severe complications that need immediate medical assistance. 

Your health practitioner may prescribe expectorants, cough suppressants, zinc and vitamin C to subside symptoms. Also, in some cases, nasal decongestants, steam and analgesics can help.


Worsen pollution levels, hazardous air quality, smog, vehicle, and factory smoke are increasing the cases of respiratory diseases in India. The right treatment, medication, diet, and regular doctor visits are required to combat the ill effects of RTI. However, the incessant rise in medical inflation makes it difficult for the common masses to afford the ongoing treatment of respiratory diseases. As it says, an ounce of prevention is worth more than a pound of cure. In such a situation, consider comprehensive health insurance for respiratory conditions that covers all your treatment expenses and supports you in a financial crunch. For maximum benefits at an affordable premium, check the health insurance plans offered by Care Health Insurance. A right health insurance policy acts as your safeguard so that you can breathe easily.

Disclaimers: The above information is for reference purposes only: Policy Assurance and Claims at the underwriter's discretion.

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