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Lower Respiratory Tract Infections

Lower respiratory tract includes extends from the windpipe (trachea) to the lungs. Lower respiratory tract infections are caused by bacteria, viruses or fungi. These infections can be transmitted from an infected individual to a healthy individual via tiny droplets of sputum expelled during coughing or sneezing.

Common lower respiratory tract infections

The most common lower respiratory tract infections include:

  1. Pneumonia
  2. Tuberculosis
  3. Bronchitis
  4. Bronchiolitis
  5. Whooping cough
  6. Influenza

Signs and symptoms

The symptoms of lower respiratory tract infections can vary from mild to severe based on the severity of the infection. You may experience the following symptoms if it is a lower respiratory tract infection:

  1. A severe cough with phlegm
  2. Sore throat
  3. Nasal congestion or runny nose
  4. Mild headache
  5. Moderate to high fever
  6. Whistling sound during breathing
  7. Difficulty in breathing
  8. Dizziness
  9. Chest pain or tightness
  10. Joint pain

Diagnosis of lower respiratory tract infections

If you experience the symptoms of respiratory tract infections, you must consult a doctor. Your doctor would recommend certain tests to confirm lower respiratory tract infection

Sputum culture

A sputum culture is used to detect infections of the respiratory tract such as mycoplasma, legionella, pertussis(bacterial) and fungal infection. Using a gram stain helps in identifying the specific bacteria that is causing the infection.

If the causative organism is not identified on culture, other tests can be used to detect the specific infection

  1. Rapid flu tests: This helps in detecting the antibodies for influenza virus in the sputum or nasal secretions.
  2. Acid Fast Bacillus(AFB) smear: This test is useful to detect tuberculosis infection.

Blood tests and cultures

Complete blood picture may indicate an increase in the white blood cells, which is highly suggestive of infection. Blood sample can also be cultured to check whether infection is spread in the blood.

Chest X-ray

Chest X-ray helps in diagnosing lower respiratory tract infections such as pneumonia, bronchitis, and bronchiolitis. White spots in the lungs (pulmonary infiltrates) on an X-ray are indicative of infection. Complications of respiratory tract infections such as pleural effusion, abscesses, lung collapse can also be determined on a chest radiograph.

The following tests help in assessing lung function which may be affected due to the infection

Pulse Oximetry

This test utilizes a probe that is placed on the part of your body such as to a finger or earlobe. The sensor that is attached uses light to give an estimate about the amount of the oxygen in your blood.

Arterial blood gases

During this test, a sample of blood is collected from your artery to measure the blood pH, levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the blood. This test gives an estimate about the lung function.

How to treat lower respiratory tract infections?

The treatment of lower respiratory tract infections is based on the underlying disease and severity of the illness. However, most of the lower respiratory tract infections do not need a specific treatment and can be cured using certain self-care measures.

Lifestyle measures

  • Stay hydrated by drinking adequate amounts of fluids. Drinking warm water would help in loosening phlegm.
  • Take sufficient rest and avoid doing strenuous activities.
  • Use a humidifier and breathe in warm moist air to get relief from the symptoms.

Medical intervention

Bacterial infections can be controlled by taking specific antibiotics.  Medications are usually not prescribed for viral infections. The following are certain over-the-counter medications, which are used to relieve the symptoms:

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  • Over-the-counter decongestants relieve cough.
  • Painkillers to relieve pain and fever.
  • Bronchodilator drugs prevent narrowing of airways and controls shortness of breath.

In case of severe infection, the following treatments may be necessary:

  1. Intravenous fluids: To prevent dehydration
  2. Oxygen therapy: To maintain oxygen levels in blood.
  3. Assisted ventilation: To compensate for respiratory failure

Preventive measures

  • Eat a healthy diet, which is essential to boost your immune system
  • Stay away from tobacco smoke, vehicle exhaust fumes, and industrial pollution
  • Stay away from large crowds, especially during winters and when there is an outbreak of flu in your surrounding areas.
  • Avoid sharing medical equipments such as inhalers, nebulizers, and oxygen cannula.
  • Quit smoking as it can increase your susceptibility to develop respiratory tract infections.
  • Use tissues to cover your nose and mouth to avoid the spread of the virus-containing droplets as they can infect others.
  • Prior vaccination protects against certain respiratory tract infections.

Why choose Apollo Diagnostics?

We have the expertise of 34 + years in healthcare. Our labs are equipped with EQUAS (External Quality Assurance System) and loaded with full automated machines to ensure error free reports, with a quick turnaround time, and at an affordable price. For your convenience, we offer free home collection of samples.

 For appointments, please call 4444 2424.

References

  1. Acute lower respiratory infections. http://www.erswhitebook.org/chapters/acute-lower-respiratory-infections/ . Accessed on 21-10-2017
  2. Lower respiratory tract infections. https://lung.templehealth.org/patient-care/conditions-we-treat/lower-respiratory-tract-infections . Accessed on 21-10-2017
  3. Lower respiratory tract infections (LRTI) symptoms. https://lung.templehealth.org/patient-care/conditions-we-treat/lower-respiratory-tract-infections/lower-respiratory-tract-infections-lrti-symptoms . Accessed on 21-10-2017
  4. Tests for lung infections. https://www.webmd.com/lung/tc/tests-for-lung-infections-topic-overview . Accessed on 21-10-2017
  5. How to prevent respiratory tract infections. https://www.inlifehealthcare.com/2017/04/14/simple-ways-prevent-respiratory-tract-infections/#.WerlkI-CzIU . Accessed on 21-10-2017
  6. Self-care. https://www.hse.ie/eng/health/az/R/Respiratory-tract-infection/Preventing-respiratory-tract-infections.html . Accessed on 21-10-2017
  7. Lower respiratory tract infections (LRTI)                treatment. https://lung.templehealth.org/patient-care/conditions-we-treat/lower-respiratory-tract-infections/lower-respiratory-tract-infections-lrti-treatment . Accessed on 21-10-2017


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