Respiratory Tract Infection: Definition, Causes, 9 Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment

By | July 9, 2020
Respiratory Tract Infection

Respiratory tract infection definition

The respiratory tract infection is an infection that attacks the human respiratory tract. This infection is caused by bacteria or viruses. Based on its location, respiratory tract infections are divided into two types, namely upper and lower respiratory tract infections.

Differences between upper and lower respiratory tract infections

An infection of the upper respiratory tract or upper respiratory tract infections (URI/URTI) is an infection that occurs in the nasal cavity, sinus, and throat. Some of the diseases included in this infection are colds, sinusitis, tonsillitis, sore throat, and laryngitis.

Infections of the lower respiratory tract or lower respiratory tract infections (LRI/LRTI) occur in the airway and of the lungs. Examples of lower respiratory tract infections are bronchitis, bronchiolitis, TB, and pneumonia.

Respiratory Tract Infection Causes

Some types of viruses or bacteria that can cause upper respiratory tract infections, among them are influenza and parainfluenza, Thinoviruses, Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV), Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV), Group A Streptococcus, Pertussis, and diphtheria.

While some types of viruses or bacteria that can cause infections of the lower respiratory tract, among them are influenza A, human metapneumovirus (hMPV), Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), Varicella-zoster virus (VZV), H. Influenzae, Streptococcus pneumoniae, Klebsiella pneumoniae, Staphylococcus aureus, Enterobacteria and anaerobic bacteria.

A healthy person can be infected with respiratory tract infections after inhaling a splash of saliva that contains viruses or bacteria secreted by the sufferer when coughs or sneezes. 

Aside from direct contact, transmission can also occur indirectly by being interlaced by objects that have been exposed to viruses or bacteria from respiratory tract infections.

Respiratory Tract Infection Symptoms

Lower respiratory tract infections trigger cough as the main symptom, while infection of the upper respiratory tract is more complex, such as sneezing, headache, and sore throat. Pain in the body will follow, if the people with has a high fever.

The following symptoms of respiratory tract infections in general:

  • Cough with phlegm.
  • Sneezing.
  • Nasal congestion or watery.
  • Sore throat.
  • Headaches.
  • Muscle pain.
  • Shortness of breath, chest feels toned, or wheezing.
  • High fever.
  • Unwell.

When to see a doctor?

In the case of respiratory tract infections, contact your doctor immediately if you have other conditions that accompany you, such as:

  • Has heart, liver, lung, or kidney disease before infection with respiratory tract disease.
  • Experiencing symptoms of pneumonia such as cough with blood
  • Long-term (chronic) lung diseases such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
  • Suffering from bronchiectasis and cystic fibrosis
  • Have a weak immune system or lose weight,
  • Has conditions affecting the nervous system such as multiple sclerosis
  • A cough that has lasted for more than three weeks
  • There is chest pain
  • There is a lump in the neck

How do the doctors diagnose respiratory tract infections?

Typically, doctors make a diagnosis of respiratory tract infections by asking what symptoms are experienced and how long they infect the body. During the examination, the doctor performs several tests to help with the diagnosis, such as:

Chest X-rays

Chest X-rays to check whether serious problems occur in the lung, such as pneumonia.

Blood check

Blood check to see if there are any infections related to bacteria or viruses.

Pulse Oxymetry

Pulse Oxymetry to determine the amount of oxygen contained in the blood.

Taking slime samples

Taking slime samples to find out if there is any viral or bacterial contamination.

Respiratory tract Infection Treatment

Respiratory Tract Infection Tratment

The treatment for respiratory tract infections depends on the causes and symptoms experienced. Some of the treatments commonly recommended by doctors are:

Heat-lowering and pain relievers

Heat-lowering and painkillers, which are given to address the complaints of fever, headache, or aches on the body.

Most cases of upper respiratory tract infections can be treated alone at home. For example, with pain medications that can be purchased freely, such as ibuprofen or paracetamol, or simply by increasing the rest and fluid intake.

This treatment aims to reduce the symptoms of a mild upper respiratory tract infection. Usually the upper respiratory tract infection will heal within 1-2 weeks.

Cough-relief drugs

Cough-relief drugs, to overcome cough complaints. However, it should be discussed further with the doctor because the selection of the drug depends on the type of cough experienced.

The cold medication

The cold medication, which can be administered orally (taken), or through a nasal spray.

Herbal supplement

Some herbal supplements and medicines can be used as alternative remedies, but it is advisable to consult a doctor first. You are also not encouraged to try other treatment methods without the doctor’s knowledge and permission.


If the infection is caused by bacteria, the doctor may also prescribe antibiotics for consumption.

Lower respiratory tract infections, such as pneumonia, can mostly be treated as an outpatient or through antibiotic treatment.

Similarly, with patients with bronchitis due to viral infections, it is still possible to get treatment at home. The antibiotic used will be adjusted to the patient’s physical condition and response. One of the children-friendly antibiotics is amoxicillin.


However, this decision remains based on the doctor’s diagnosis, so it is possible that the sufferer can be referred as an inpatient. This option is taken mainly when antibiotics are not able to function optimally for pediatric sufferers.

Sharing is caring!

You might be reading this while on lockdown yourself, or while watching the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) spread rapidly and without discrimination, make its way across the world. Help us fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.The donation supports our work, our children, our families, and our community that affect by COVID-19