Seven Things You Should Know About Acute Respiratory Infections

Any health condition that affects your breathing can be uncomfortable and disruptive to daily life. There are different types of acute respiratory infection, each with their own causes, symptoms and recommended treatments. This article outlines what you need to know about these infections and when to seek help from a doctor.

  • There are two major types of respiratory infection
  • The respiratory system controls your breathing and is made up of key parts that can be split into the upper respiratory tract (nose, throat, sinuses and voice box) and the lower tract (lungs, bronchi and air sacs). Infections are usually categorised into either the upper or lower tract based on what area of the respiratory system they affect.

  • There are different symptoms depending on how severe the infection is
  • Upper respiratory infections such as the common cold, tonsillitis, mild flu and sinusitis will typically present with symptoms including a cough, congestion, a runny nose and sneezing. Some people may also experience some muscular pain and headaches. Lower respiratory infection symptoms can be more serious as they may significantly impact the breathing causing chest tightness, shortness of breath and wheezing. These symptoms are typical of less common illnesses such as severe flu, pneumonia and bacterial tuberculosis.

  • Many acute respiratory infections are contagious
  • Most of these infections are viral and passed from person to person through exposure to the virus either through direct contact or airborne droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes. The length of time someone will be contagious depends on the infection they have. The cold virus for example can typically be passed on from the infected person for between five to seven days after they first show symptoms.

  • Different age groups can be more vulnerable to certain respiratory infections
  • Children can be more at risk of certain infections like croup, bronchiolitis, whooping cough and asthma as their airways are smaller and not fully developed. They are also more likely to be exposed to infection due to frequent contact with lots of other children at school. Older people can be more at risk of developing complications from the flu as their bodies aren’t always as equipped to fight infection and therefore become more vulnerable to serious illnesses like pneumonia taking hold.

  • Respiratory infections can keep recurring if left untreated
  • Chronic (long term) respiratory issues can lead to damaged lungs and make you more susceptible to future repeat infections. You may also be more at risk if you have a lowered immune system which can be caused by certain medications. If you’re worried about the frequency of infection, contact your doctor who may want to investigate further.

  • You can take steps to reduce the risk of infection
  • Good hygiene such as regular hand washing is often the best form of defence against catching respiratory infections. A healthy diet, good sleep routine and regular light exercise all help to ensure your immune system’s operating at full capacity which can keep any potential infections from taking hold. You can also ask about the annual flu vaccine when you speak to one of our doctors.

  • Always consult a doctor if you’re concerned about your symptoms
  • It’s highly recommended to seek medical advice if you’re worried about your symptoms or those of a family member. At 13 Cure, we operate across every Australian state and offer GP home visits out of hours to ensure you’ve got peace of mind whatever the time of day. Sign in or register to book an appointment today.

Name: Dr. Muhammad Mohsin, General Practitioner

University Degree: MBBS, AMC

Bio: Dr. Muhammad Mohsin completed his studies from Univerisity of Health Sciences, Lahore Pakistan in 2008. He came to Australia in 2012 and has worked as a resident and GP in various hospitals and medical centres across Australia. He has a particular interest in men's health, travels medicine, chronic disease management, and general family medicine.