Respiratory tract infection

Respiratory tract infection


A respiratory tract infection (RTI) is also referred to as a respiratory infection (RI). Infections of the respiratory tract are often divided into those of the Upper Respiratory Tract (URT) and those of the Lower Respiratory Tract (LRT).

The major passages and structures of the upper respiratory tract include the nose or nostrils, nasal cavity, mouth, throat (pharynx), and voice box (larynx). The major passages and structures of the lower respiratory tract include the windpipe (trachea) and within the lungs, the bronchi, bronchioles, and alveoli.

Upper respiratory tract infection (URTI or URI) is more common than lower respiratory tract infection (LRTI or LRI). Viral pathogens are the most common cause of respiratory infection, bacterial pathogens are less common.

Most respiratory tract infections, especially those of the upper respiratory tract (e.g., influenza, common cold), are mild and not incapacitating. Lower respiratory tract infections (e.g. pneumonia), can be more severe. Lower respiratory tract infections are more likely than upper respiratory tract infections to cause fever, difficulty breathing, or chest pain. Cough is often present in either upper or lower tract infections.

Vaccines are available to prevent a number of respiratory diseases including influenza and pneumonia. Preventing respiratory illness entirely may not be possible, but common-sense preventive measures include minimizing close contact with people who are coughing and sneezing and frequent handwashing, either with soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizers (containing ≥60% alcohol) when soap and water are not available.

Adapted from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Chapter 2. The Pretravel Consultation at https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/yellowbook/2018/the-pre-travel-consultation/respiratory-infectionsandAdapted from MedlinePlus, Medical Encyclopedia, Upper Respiratory Tract at https://medlineplus.gov/ency/imagepages/19378.htmandAdapted from MedlinePlus, Medical Encyclopedia, Lower Respiratory Tract at https://medlineplus.gov/ency/imagepages/19379.htm