Respiratory tract is a part of the human body in charge of process of respiration. Respiratory tract system is divided into the upper respiratory tract and lower respiratory tract. Both parts of the system can be affected by infections. Lower respiratory infection (LRI) is an infection that affects trachea (windpipe), lungs, bronchi, bronchioles and alveoli. Infection of lower respiratory tract is more serious than infection of the upper respiratory tract.
Lower respiratory tract infections most commonly include bronchitis and pneumonia. Emphysema and lung abscess also represent infections of the lower respiratory tract. If the infection is caused by bacteria, antibiotics are the first step of treatment. On the other hand, if it is a viral infection, antibiotics are not prescribed.
Bronchitis represents an inflammation of the air passages within the lungs. Bronchitis can be either acute or chronic. Acute bronchitis is followed by cough, shortness of breath, wheezing, fatigue, chest discomfort, slight fever and chills. In most cases bronchitis is not caused by viral infection thereby it should not be treated with antibiotics although there are no effective therapies for the condition. Cough related to acute bronchitis is sometimes treated with Beta2 agonists. Chronic bronchitis occurs due to long term inflammation of air passages, which leads to scaring of the bronchial tubes. Acute exacerbations of chronic bronchitis (AECB) are periods of difficulty breathing in a patient with chronic bronchitis. AECB can be caused by allergens, toxins and viral or bacterial infections. One half of all patients suffering from AECB are affected by Haemophilus influenzae, Streptococcus pneumoniae or Moraxella catarrhalis. The condition can be treated with antibiotics if it is followed by increased dyspnoea, increased sputum volume and purulence.
Pneumonia is an infection of the lungs that may be caused by bacteria, viruses or fungi. It is most commonly caused by pneumococcal bacteria. Pneumonia is the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S. and it can be particularly serious in elderly people, children below 5 years of age and people with impaired immune system. Bacterial pneumonia is commonly treated with antibiotics while viral pneumonia may be treated with antiviral medications.
Treatment for Lower Respiratory Infections
Lower respiratory infection can be diagnosed with the help of blood tests and X-ray. Cough caused by lower respiratory infection is treated with over the counter medications such as decongestant drops and sprays. Headache, pain and fever can be managed with pain relievers such as paracetamol. High fever can be additionally decreased with increased intake of fluids. Antibiotics used for bacterial infections are commonly amoxicillin or procaine penicillin.