Lower respiratory infections are illnesses that affects the respiratory system below the throat. Any form of infection that affects the lungs and lower airways is considered as a lower respiratory infection.
The widely known and common forms of lower respiratory infections include bronchitis and pneumonia as well as bronchiolitis among children.
Types of lower respiratory infections
Pneumonia is an infection that involves the interior of the lungs. There are various forms of pneumonia and can be triggered by different types of viruses, bacteria, fungi and even inhaled chemicals or solid objects. Most cases of pneumonia occur as a complication of an upper respiratory infection such as the flu or common cold.
In most circumstances, those who have these lower respiratory infections are treated using antibiotics. Other medications might be needed for the symptoms. For severe cases or those who are at high risk, hospitalization is required. One way to minimize the risk for serious illnesses is to receive the flu shot every year. Additionally, the elderly should be given a pneumonia vaccine as well.
Bronchitis involves irritation and swelling in the airways leading to the lungs. In most cases, it is triggered by a virus and eventually subside on its own. Even though the coughing can cause discomfort and persist for weeks, antibiotics are not effective since the viruses responsible are not eliminated. Other treatment options might be useful if the individual has been diagnosed with the condition. The doctor might prescribe an inhaler to alleviate the coughing and breathing difficulty.
Over-the-counter medications such as expectorants or pain medications are also given as well. If the individual has bronchitis but starts to feel worse or fever develops, a doctor should be consulted. Oftentimes, secondary bacterial infections can occur among those with the condition. Once this occurs, the treatment is different and antibiotics might be prescribed.
What is bronchiolitis?
Bronchiolitis involves inflammation or swelling in the small airways in the lungs. This is a condition that mainly affects children younger than 2 years old. It typically occurs among infants between 3-6 months old with RSV as the main cause.
Coughing and wheezing are the main symptoms of bronchiolitis. Remember that it can be serious and oftentimes deadly among young infants. If a child shows indications of difficulty breathing, seek medical care right away even if bronchiolitis is not suspected.
Lower respiratory infections can be fatal and generally more serious in nature than upper respiratory infections. Being familiar with the warning signs is vital so that you know when to seek medical care if needed.