respiratory2Upper Respiratory Tract Infections

Infections of the upper respiratory tract affect the nose, sinuses and throat: the common cold is the main offender, followed by sinusitis, laryngitis, and influenza. A cough is the most common symptom of an upper respiratory tract infection, plus headaches, a stuffy or runny nose, sore throat, sneezing and muscle aches.

Most upper respiratory tract infections will pass in one to two weeks without the need for medical intervention: you can treat your symptoms at home by taking over-the-counter remedies, drinking plenty of fluids and resting. Your sleep pattern will return to normal when your breathing is clear and the cough goes.

Lower Respiratory Tract Infections

Infections of the lower respiratory tract affect the airways and lungs, and can be more serious. These commonly are bronchitis, pneumonia and pleurisy. Influenza can also affect the lower respiratory tract, and so can tuberculosis, which is a persistent infection of the lungs.

Again, the main symptom of a lower respiratory tract infection is a cough, but usually more severe, and you may bring up phlegm and mucus. Other symptoms can be a tight feeling in your chest, increased rate of breathing, breathlessness and wheezing.

If you are feeling very unwell, are coughing up bloody mucus and phlegm, or you have a pre-existing heart, lung, liver or kidney condition or another chronic health problem, it would be best to visit your GP.

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