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Respiratory Infections Q & A

Respiratory Infections, also referred to as acute respiratory infections, are medical conditions which can interfere with normal lung function. These infections can be contagious and usually begin in the nose, windpipe or trachea, and spread to the lungs. If the infection is left untreated it can continue to spread throughout the respiratory system and cause damage. The elderly and children are particularly susceptible to respiratory infections.

The causes of some respiratory conditions is unknown. However, there are common conditions which can cause respiratory infections including:

  • Adenovirus- This is a type of virus which can cause the common cold, bronchitis, and pneumonia.
  • Pneumococcus- the is a type of bacteria which causes meningitis and can trigger illnesses such as pneumonia.
  • Rhinovirus- This virus is usually the source of the common cold. Typically, colds do not become serious. However, for some older adults, young children, and those with a weakened immune system a cold can cause a respiratory infection.

Early signs or symptoms of respiratory infections usually appear in the nose and lungs and can include:

  • Congestion in either the sinuses or lungs
  • Runny nose
  • Fatigue
  • Sore throat
  • Cough
  • Body aches

If the condition worsens, the symptoms can include:

  • Fever and chills
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Dizziness
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Low blood oxygen levels

As with many viruses, there is no real cure. The doctor can prescribe medications which can help to manage the signs and symptoms while observing the person’s condition. If there is a secondary infection present or if the cause is bacterial, test can identify this in order to help the doctor determine if and what types of antibiotics a patient may need.

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