Acute respiratory tract infection (ARTI) is one of the most common infections encountered by people all over the world regardless of age and gender. Common cold is a classical example of acute respiratory tract infection. Human respiratory system begins from nose, and extends down to throat, pharynx, larynx, trachea, bronchi and lungs.
Majority of acute respiratory tract infections are caused by viruses. In few cases bacteria may be involved. Cough, breathing difficulty, phlegm and excess of mucus are clinical symptoms commonly noticed in a patient suffering from respiratory tract infection.
Acute respiratory infection is contagious. Infection can spread from one person to another through direct contact or inhaling droplets containing viruses. Infections that affect nose, throat, and sinuses are called upper respiratory tract infections. Infection affecting the bronchi and lungs are called lower respiratory tract infections. Children, elderly individuals and people with low immunity are vulnerable to acute respiratory infection.
Causes Of Acute Respiratory Infection
Viruses are mainly responsible for acute respiratory tract infection.
- Adenovirus is a DNA virus that mainly causes infection in early childhood. There are different types of adenovirus, which after entering into the body may lead to common cold, bronchitis, pharyngitis etc. It spreads through droplets that are spread from sneezing and coughing.
- Respiratory syncytial virus is common virus to cause lower respiratory tract infection among children under the age of 2 years. Children get infected from adults through nasal secretions. Respiratory syncytial virus infection is most prevalent during rainy and winter months.
- Rhinovirus infection leads to common cold. In children and old age people it can lead to complications involving lower respiratory tract.
- Parainfluenza and influenza virus are other common pathogens to cause acute respiratory infection.
- Besides viruses, certain bacteria such as pneumococcus are also responsible for acute respiratory tract infection.
Mode of spread is through droplets and direct contact with the infected person. Risk increases if the patient sneezes without covering his mouth and nose. Infection also spreads in crowded area such as in daycare center, school, and theaters.
Signs And Symptoms Of Acute Respiratory Infection
Acute respiratory tract infection is abrupt in onset. Most cases present with infection in upper respiratory tract. Nose, throat, sinuses, tonsils, are affected if it is an upper respiratory tract. However, few pathogens can invade the directly the lungs and bronchi.
Frequently encountered symptoms of acute respiratory infections are:
- Sudden onset of congestion in nose.
- Itching in nose and throat.
- Running nose and watering from eyes.
- Sore throat
- Pain while swallowing
- Thin or thick sputum which is clear and watery in the beginning but after few days becomes yellow and thick.
- Pain in chest
- Breathing difficulty
- Body ache
- Malaise and fatigue
Home Remedies For Acute Respiratory Infection
As common cold and various other acute respiratory illnesses are caused due to virus, there is no specific treatment. General supportive care is the corner stone treatment of acute respiratory infection. Rest is essential for the patient. It helps to build up immunity and prevents the spread if patient stays inside his home.
Acute respiratory infection is generally mild and self limiting. Usually the illness lasts for 3 to 5 days after which most patients recover if there is no complication. Home remedies are effective in alleviating the symptoms during this period.
- Hot chicken soup with added garlic will help to treat the infection. Hot soup will help to clear nasal congestion and it is also soothing for the sore throat.
- Patient has to take enough water to prevent dehydration.
- Inhaling steam is also effective in reducing congestion in nose and throat. The blocked air passage will clear out and allow free flow of mucus and sputum.
- Chamomile tea is beneficial in relieving symptoms of acute respiratory infection.
- Homeopathic medicines such as Allium cepa, Ars alb, Eupatorium Perf, Euphrasia, Calc Carb are beneficial in acute respiratory tract infections.