Lower Respiratory Tract Infection: Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis & Treatment

Lower Respiratory Tract Infection: Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis & Treatment

Lower respiratory tract infection (LRTI) cause disease in the alveolar sacs and the resulting infections are called pneumonia. While often used as a synonym for pneumonia, it can also be applied to other types of infection including lung abscess and acute bronchitis.

There are a number of symptoms that are characteristic of lower respiratory tract infections and the two most common are bronchitis and edema.

Bronchitis is the swelling or inflammation of the bronchial tubes and is described as either acute or chronic depending on its presentation and causative agent. Acute bronchitis can be defined as viral infection of the larger airways and affects over 40 adults per 1000 each year and consists of transient inflammation of the major bronchi and trachea.

Pneumonia is life-threatening in the elderly or those who are immunocompromised. It is also the leading cause of death in children less than five years of age in low-income countries. In 2015 there were about 291 million cases of lower respiratory tract infection and these resulted in 2.74 million deaths down from 3.4 million deaths in 1990.

How Does Lower Respiratory Tract Infection Affect Your Body?

The infection which occurs in the lower respiratory tract of the human body is usually termed as lower respiratory tract infection. The infections begin from the lower larynx and attack the bronchi and even lungs. The common illnesses include bronchiolitis, pneumonia, bronchitis, and flu. Like the upper respiratory tract infection, lower respiratory tract infection spreads very fast and cause greater harm to the human body than the upper respiratory infections.

What Are The Causes of Lower Respiratory Tract Infection?

Lower respiratory tract infections are due to respiratory pathogens or intracellular or atypical bacteria. Common pathogens are Strep. pneumoniae, H. influenzae, Staph. aureus and Moraxella catarrhalis.

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What Are The Risk Factors of Lower Respiratory Tract Infection?

  • Age – infants, and children are at risk; low-weight also plays the role in them for causing this infection.
  • Exposure to air pollution – Pollution outdoors as well as indoors can increase the risk of lower respiratory infections.
  • Lack of breastfeeding – In infants, lack of breastfeeding is the most important risk factor.
  • Incomplete immunization – Not getting vaccinated regularly or skipping it can also increase the risk.
  • Undernutrition – Lack of nutrition weakens the immune system making you more susceptible to infection.
  • HIV infection – Those with HIV are at greater risk of lower respiratory infection.

What Are The Symptoms of Lower Respiratory Tract Infection?

In acute- LRTIs, the symptoms are mild and similar to common cold:

  • Weakness
  • Fever
  • Coughing
  • Fatigue
  • Runny nose
  • Dry cough
  • Sore throat
  • Mild headache

LRTIs leading to pneumonia, bronchitis, or other more serious infections can cause the following symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Severe cough
  • Rapid breathing
  • Wheezing
  • Skin turning blue in color due to lack of oxygen
  • Chest pain

How is Lower Respiratory Tract Infection Diagnosed?

  • Pulse Oximetry – This test uses a small sensor that attaches to the finger or ear and uses light to estimate how much oxygen is present in the blood.
  • Blood Test – Blood test is done to check for the presence of viruses, bacteria, or other organisms.
  • Laboratory Tests – Sample of sputum or mucus is taken and inspected in a laboratory for the presence of bacterial organisms.
  • Bronchiolitis is diagnosed by monitoring the symptoms and analyzing breathing.
  • Influenza is diagnosed based on symptoms and medical history if a person is at risk.
  • For pneumonia, X-ray can be done to check for pneumonia and is likely to show shadowing on the lungs if the infection is present.
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How To Prevent And Control Lower Respiratory Tract Infection?

Vaccination is the best way to prevent LRTI. The vaccine is mostly against bronchopneumonia, influenza viruses, adenoviruses, measles, rubella, Streptococcus pneumoniae, Haemophilus influenzae, diphtheria, Bacillus anthracis, chickenpox, and Bordetella pertussis.

Treatment of Lower Respiratory Tract Infection- Allopathic Treatment

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) – NSAIDs such as ibuprofen, naproxen, or aspirin are prescribed to get relieved from pain and fever.
  • Acetaminophen – This can also provide relief from pain and fever.
  • Bronchodilator – Using bronchodilator inhaler can help with wheezing and shortness of breath.
  • Antibiotics – These are the first line treatment for pneumonia; acute bronchitis typically resolves on its own with time while antibiotics can be given to patients with chronic bronchitis.
  • Amoxicillin and doxycycline – These are suitable for many of the lower respiratory tract infections.
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Treatment of Lower Respiratory Infection- Homeopathic Treatment

  • Antimonium tart – This is given when cough sounds loose, but a continuous cough does not bring up expectoration, causing wheezing.
  • Rumex Crispus – This is prescribed when respiratory organs are extremely sensitive to atmospheric changes. The patient prefers to have his head covered and coughing is initiated by tickling in the suprasternal fossa and extends to the stomach.
  • Phosphorus – This is given when there is pain under the sternum when coughing.
  • Bryonia – This is given when the cough is worse at night and the pain is in the chest or throat.
  • Kali Bich – This is given when cough accompanied by thick, stringy mucus.
  • Spongia Tosta – This is for a barking cough that increases with excitement, and feels better with hot drinks.

Lower Respiratory Tract Infection – Lifestyle Tips

  • Drink plenty amount of fluids like water, fruit juice, and others.
  • Get plenty of rest and avoid stressing the body.
  • Use a humidifier to breathe warm, moist air may provide relief.
  • Avoid smoking cigarette and also cigarette smoke and other pollutants, such as chemical fumes.

What Are The Recommended Exercises For a Person With Lower Respiratory Tract Infection?

  • Low-intensity exercise has been proven to reduce inflammation and improves the immune response to respiratory viral infections.
  • These include brisk walking for 30 minutes, yoga and swimming for not more than 30 minutes or an hour, depending on your condition.

Lower Respiratory Tract Infection & Pregnancy – Things to Know

  • The incidence of lower respiratory tract infection in women of child-bearing age is approximately 64 per 1000 population.
  • The illness ranges from acute bronchitis, which is very common, through influenza virus infection to pneumonia, which, fortunately, is uncommon but can be severe.
  • Influenza infection in pregnant women has been related to increased hospitalization for acute cardiorespiratory conditions.
  • The incidence and mortality of pneumonia in pregnancy is similar to that in non-pregnant women.
  • Infants born to pregnant patients with pneumonia have been found to be born earlier and are less in weight.
  • Macrolide antibiotics remain the antibiotics of choice in terms of both pathogen coverage and safety in pregnancy.

Common Complications Related to Lower Respiratory Tract Infection

  • Apnea
  • Encephalopathy
  • Bronchiectasis
  • Lung abscess

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