- Posted on: 14 Jan 2016
Anyone with asthma or allergies – or anyone who is simply prone to picking up bronchial bugs – knows respiratory infections come in several degrees of severity. They can also go from “This isn’t so bad” to “I can’t handle this!” in a very short time.
The Basics: Upper and Lower Respiratory Tract Infections
The mouth, nose, throat, larynx and trachea (or windpipe) comprise the upper respiratory tract. An infection in the upper respiratory tract may be dismissed as just a cold – and sometimes, extra sleep, a little TLC and over the counter meds can help you kick it. Other times, additional treatment may be needed.
And, even a “simple cold” can escalate quickly into a serious respiratory illness, particularly for asthma and allergy sufferers, or for those with compromised immune systems.
The lower respiratory tract includes the lungs and bronchial tubes. Lower respiratory tract infections may sound more serious, and in fact, they can be – bronchitis and pneumonia are two diagnoses most of us want to avoid! Proper diagnosis of any respiratory ailment requires a trained ear and a stethoscope, at the very least. Another reason that coughing and sputtering warrants a trip to the doctor: Many patients who “know” they have a respiratory infection find out during an exam that they also have an ear or throat infection as well. Either of those things can require additional treatment to return the patient to better health.
Managing the Respiratory Infection Season
If you have been in close proximity to someone with bronchitis or another respiratory infection, chances are you’ll soon be fighting some of the same symptoms. Thanks to their airborne nature, many respiratory ailments are highly contagious. So, the best thing to do to avoid respiratory infections is to practice smart hygiene:
- Wash hands frequently; don’t rub your mouth and face with your hands
- Wipe or spray “busy” surfaces (like phones and countertops) with anti-bacterial treatments regularly
- Cover when you cough or sneeze, and encourage others to do so, too
- Don’t share towels, scarves, or other personal items
While most respiratory infections are easily transmitted, they can be caused by bacteria or by viruses (coronavirus and rhinovirus are the two you’ve probably heard the most about). The good news: the viruses are typically short-lived, and many holistic treatments can treat and offer relief from the infection and its symptoms as well as prescription medications. At times, and depending on the course of the infection, antibiotics and/or steroids can be extremely helpful in giving a patient a chance to regain normal, comfortable breathing again.
A Special Note for Asthma and Allergy Patients
Managing your allergy and asthma triggers becomes even more important during cold and flu season, as an infection will cause you more breathing distress, and your return to health may take longer for that reason.
Not sure that nagging cough is going away? Want to understand more about the holistic options that can help you avoid respiratory illnesses? FirstCare is the New Paltz and Highland area’s first choice for healthcare and treatment.
Our doctors and staff provide holistic and traditional adult and pediatric care in a caring family practice, open 362 days a year. Because you can’t schedule a “good” time to get sick, and when you’re sick, treatment often can’t wait.