What is an upper respiratory infection?
An upper respiratory tract infection is a viral/bacterial infection that affects the nose, throat, and airway. The upper respiratory tract consists of sinuses, nasal passage, pharynx, and larynx. These components direct air that we breathe which is gradually inhaled to the lungs through the trachea and that constitutes the process of respiration. The infections of the different parts of the respiratory tract are generally specific to certain regions of the respiratory tract and are named based on the area that is infected. For instance, rhinosinusitis or sinusitis is for a sinus infection, inflammation of the nares, pharynx, tonsils, uvula and the hypopharynx is referred to as nasopharyngitis, rhinitis is the inflammation of the nasal cavity, laryngotracheitis and so on.
Upper respiratory tract infection is one of the most common condition people encounter, especially children. Though present throughout the year, it is all the more common during the fall and winter months.
How is this infection caused?
The inner walls or lining of the upper airway are called mucosa or the mucous membrane. During an infection, bacteria or virus attack the joints of the membrane causing the body to initiate an inflammatory response. The membrane starts creating more mucous to trap the invading bacteria/virus and expel them from the body. The body also starts preparing an adaptive immunity mechanism to repel the particular bacteria/virus. Usually, this is enough to clear the infection, but viruses tend to create different adaptive mechanisms to protect itself from the immune response. They reduce the strength of the epithelial tissue through toxins and increase the pathways between cells for easier access to other cells. They also damage the repair mechanism of the epithelial layer. They interfere with the immune response and cause the inflammatory response to become harmful to the body. When the body starts creating too much mucous, it makes it easier for bacterial infections to become prominent and cause damage to the lungs and the antiviral response of the body.
Is it contagious?
Yes, upper respiratory tract infection can easily spread from one person to another. The virus causing infection in the upper respiratory tract is often known to thrive in the low humidity of winters. The infection spreads when people inhale the respiratory droplet in the air that is expelled through coughing and sneezing by the infected person. The transmission can also occur by touching the nose or mouth by hand or other object exposed to the virus
What are the most common symptoms of upper respiratory infection?
Upper Respiratory Infection is often accompanied by the following signs and symptoms and these symptoms are most often the result of the toxins released by the pathogens alongside the inflammatory response by the immune system to combat the infection:
- Blocked nose
- Constant nasal breathing
- A cough
- Nasal congestion
- A sore throat
- Nasal discharge
How to handle a child with upper respiratory infection?
You must be informed that this condition is one of the most common and is not too dangerous. It is non-threatening and does not generally cause any severe harm to the body. Keeping a few of the following points in mind can help you save your child from getting affected by upper respiratory infection and also reduce its effects if they are already affected by it.
- Homemade recipes to cure this condition have been the most used and most effective way to fight this condition. Mixing ginger, pepper, turmeric and tea can be highly useful in relieving a congested throat/chest.
- Using a mild hand wash to clean your child’s hands before and after a meal and in regular intervals is extremely necessary.
- Make sure to pack a hand sanitizer with your child when they go to play or school to protect them from accidentally spreading or getting affected by other children.
- Instruct your children to sneeze or cough into their own handkerchief or napkin and not share it with anyone.
- To ensure your children and his/her friends’ safety, it is also smart to instruct your child to drink or eat only their food and not share with others.