Respiratory tract infections are among the most experienced illnesses, and place large economic costs on the community in terms of absences from work and school and in visits to medical professionals. While most are self-limiting and resolve with time, they can be quite serious. Influenza kills approximately 36.000 in the USA every year with higher mortality rates in the elderly, who have weaker immune systems. Many more Americans experience complications that require hospital admission.

Respiratory infections are caused by pathogenic invasion and colonisation. Upper respiratory tract infections involve the lungs and bronchi, and include pneumonia, lung abscess, acute bronchitis and bronchiectasis.

The term coryza encompasses a few viral URTIs with heterogeneous presentation. They may in turn lead to secondary LRTI or predispose to secondary bacterial URTI. The common cold is most frequently experienced with nasal congestion and drainage, sneezing, sore or scratchy throat, cough and general malaise. Influenza is regarded as a separate disease entiry, although the two often overlap. Manifestations of influenza commonly include fever, myalgia, fatigue, malaise, headache, pain behind eyes, dry cough, runny nose and sore throat.

Transmission occurs by one of three main methods:

  • Hand contact with virus containing secretions, from either the environment or an infected person
  • Inhalation of small particle aerosols
  • Direct exposure to large particle aerosols from and infected person

Article from David Casteleijn (ND, RN, MHSc), Tessa Finney – Brown (ND, MBBS cand.)