Breathing is nothing but exchange of
gases in which, carbon dioxide is carried out and oxygen is carried in. Organs
and tissues that enable us to breathe constitute the respiratory system. This includes lungs, windpipe, bronchial
tubes, voice box (larynx), nose, mouth and the blood vessels and the muscles
associated with breathing. When organs or tissues associated with this system
get affected, it is called respiratory disease.
The respiratory diseases range from
mild to life threatening. The disease may be either acute or chronic and few
examples are Asthma, Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), chronic
bronchitis, pulmonary fibrosis, tuberculosis, obstructive sleep apnea, bronchiectasis
and lung cancer.
Respiratory diseases can be
classified as upper respiratory tract infections (URTI) and lower respiratory tract
infections (LRTI). The organs that constitute upper respiratory tract system
are nasal cavity, oral cavity and larynx whereas trachea, primary bronchi and
lungs forms lower respiratory tract. Generally, infections in LRTI are more
serious in nature than URTI. Moreover, WHO states that the lower respiratory
tract infections are the leading cause of fatality among all the infectious
Upper Respiratory Tract Infections:
Infection in the upper tract is very
common and this happens when the upper airway tract is infected, mostly by
virus and also rarely by bacteria. These
diseases are contagious and easily spread from one person to another. Rhinovirus,
adenovirus, coxsackie virus, parainfluenza virus respiratory syncytial virus
and human metapneumovirus are some of the viruses which infect the upper tract
and cause the disease. Some examples for this category of disease are common
cold, tonsillitis, laryngitis, pharyngitis, trachetits, sinuses and otitis
symptoms for URTI may vary from fever, headache, throat pain, wheezing,
difficulty in swallowing food, apart from other common symptoms like runny
nose, nasal congestion, production of sputum and cough. The symptoms usually
begin 1-3 days after exposure to the virus and the infection may last for 10
days. The infection causing virus spreads mainly through air if the infected
person does not cover the mouth while he / she sneezes or coughs. Risk prone
areas are hospitals, schools, crèche and also other crowded places. Fall and
winter seasons are the favorable seasons for virus to spread. And finally it becomes very easy for the
virus to infect when our immunity system is not strong enough.
Lower Respiratory Tract Infection:
Infection in the lungs, windpipe and
airways leads to lower respiratory tract infection. Bronchitis, bronchiolitis,
croup, Lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and Pneumonia
are the most common diseases of lower respiratory tract infections. COPD is an
obstructive lung disease caused mainly due to smoking and air pollution.
Statistics reveals that 5% of the world population is affected by COPD and is
growing with time.
include severe cough sometimes with blood and mucus, body ache, headache,
vomiting, breathlessness, wheezing, sore throat, chills and fever,
irritability, blocked nose. The infection may be bacterial or viral. According
to the symptoms, doctors categorize the infection as viral or bacterial and
treat it accordingly.
and small children easily get affected by bronchiolitis and pneumonia and can
be fatal if not treated on time. In premature babies, the lungs may not have
fully developed or in other words sufficient surfactant in the lungs may not be
there. This may cause difficulty in
breathing and leads to various problems like
- Apnea of prematurity - breathing stops
for few seconds during sleep
- Bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD) - chronic
- Meconium aspiration - new born baby inhales
its first feces and amniotic fluid during delivery.
Though most of the respiratory
diseases can be treated, these diseases can be prevented by following a healthy
lifestyle by keeping our hands clean, avoid smoking, avoiding allergens,
avoiding pollutants in any form like dust, fumes and by consuming healthy food
which can boost the immunity system of our body.