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What is a respiratory infection and how can it be treated

woman with cough

Respiratory infection: what it is, the causes, symptoms and possible treatment for a common but not to be underestimated health problem.

The world is concerned about the health conditions of Pope Francis. The pontiff was hospitalized due to breathing difficulties . He would not have been infected with Covid and would not have developed pneumonia, but he could most likely be struggling with a respiratory infection, a common health problem affecting many people around the world. These infections can be caused by a wide range of pathogens, including viruses, bacteria and fungi, and can cause symptoms such as a cough, fever, sore throat and difficulty breathing. In this article we will discover the different respiratory infections, their causes and common symptoms. Additionally, we will discuss preventative measures that can be taken to reduce the risk of infection, and the treatment options available.

Respiratory infection: causes and symptoms

Respiratory infections can be caused by a wide variety of viruses, bacteria and other pathogens. Most cases are caused by common viruses , such as the flu. These infections often start with mundane symptoms, such as a sore throat or runny nose, and progress to a cough and congestion.

In severe cases, a respiratory infection could cause a fever , usually within 38 degrees. If the temperature exceeds this threshold it is necessary to consult a doctor. Extremely high fevers require medical attention, as they can cause seizures. Another alarming symptom, related to respiratory infections, is shortness of breath , or the presence of wheezing. If these symptoms occur suddenly, they could be a sign of serious lower airway problems. In this case, you need to go to the emergency room immediately.

How to treat a respiratory infection?

Depending on the severity of the infection, treatment can range from natural remedies to prescription medications. The first step in choosing treatment for any type of respiratory disease is to determine the cause . You then need to have tests such as chest x-rays or sputum cultures from your doctor. Once the specific virus or bacterium has been identified, antibiotics should be taken as directed by the doctor, if prescribed.

shortness of breath
shortness of breath

Another way to treat respiratory infections is with over-the-counter medications such as decongestants , cough medicines, and pain relievers including ibuprofen and acetaminophen for fever management. It is also essential for patients suffering from these infections to get plenty of rest and drink plenty of fluids.

What to do to prevent it

There are several practices that can be implemented to prevent a respiratory infection. First of all, it is necessary to wash your hands often and avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth, to ensure that germs do not have the possibility to penetrate our bodies. It is also important to carry out vaccinations against many of the viruses that can lead to respiratory infections.

It may also be a piece of advice to avoid exposing yourself to temperatures that are too low or too high, and avoid places that are too crowded, since they do not allow you to maintain social distancing. In these cases it may be preferable to go back to wearing the mask. Finally, smoking and pollution can also help develop respiratory infections. Also for this reason it would be necessary to avoid staying outdoors for a long time in the city during peak traffic hours.

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