Respiratory Tract Infection

Respiratory Tract Infection

Respiratory tract infection is an infection that occurs in the respiratory tract, either up or down. Although it can usually heal without special treatment , this condition can be dangerous for children, the elderly, or people with weak immune systems.

Based on its location, respiratory tract infections are divided into  upper respiratory tract infections  (URI/URTI) and  lower respiratory tract infections  (LRI/LRTI).

Upper respiratory tract infections can occur in the nasal cavities, sinuses or throat. While infections that occur in the bronchi, bronchioles, or lungs, are classified as lower respiratory tract infections.

Respiratory tract infections can occur suddenly or acutely. This condition is called an acute respiratory infection (ARI). ARI can occur in the upper or lower airways.

There are various microorganisms that can cause infections in the respiratory tract, including the virus that causes COVID-19. If you have symptoms of a respiratory infection and need a COVID-19 test, click the link below so you can be directed to the nearest health facility:

  • Antibody Rapid Test
  • Antigen Swab  (Rapid Test Antigen)
  • PCR

Causes of Respiratory Tract Infections

Respiratory tract infections can be caused by bacteria, viruses, fungi or parasites. Transmission of these germs can occur when a person inhales splashes of saliva ( droplets ) when a person with a respiratory infection coughs or sneezes.

Viruses or bacteria that cause respiratory infections can also enter the body as a result of accidentally touching the eyes, nose or mouth with unclean hands, especially after touching a surface that has been exposed to a virus or bacteria.

The following are some types of germs that most often cause respiratory tract infections:

1. Viruses, such as:

  • rhinoviruses
  • coronavirus
  • Parainfluenza viruses
  • Adenoviruses
  • Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV)
  • Influenza viruses
  • Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV)
  • C ytomegalovirus
  • Herpes simplex virus
  • H antavirus
  • Paramyxovirus _

2. Bacteria, for example:

  • Group A Streptococcus 
  • Corynebacteroum diphteriae
  • Neiseria gonorrhoeae
  • Mycoplasma pneumoniae
  • Streptococcus pneumoniae
  • Staphylococcus aureus
  • Klebsiella pneumoniae
  • Pseudomonas aeruginosa
  • E. coli
  • Ch lamydia
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis
  • Other anaerobic bacteria

3. Mushrooms, for example:

  • Candida
  • histoplasm
  • Aspergillus

4. Parasites, such as Pneumocytis carinii

Meanwhile, if it is divided based on the location of the infection, several diseases that can occur due to respiratory tract infections are:

  • Upper respiratory tract infections, including  common cold , sinusitis, rhinitis , tonsillitis , laryngitis,  laryngitis
  • Lower respiratory tract infections, including  bronchitis , bronchiolitis,  pneumonia , aspergillosis, or  tuberculosis  (TB)

A person can also experience a sudden or acute respiratory infection (ARI). ARI is generally caused by a viral or bacterial infection that is easily transmitted, especially through droplets of saliva .

Some examples of ARI in the upper or lower respiratory tract caused by viral infections are  flu , SARS, and COVID-19 .

Respiratory tract infection risk factors

A person is more at risk of suffering from respiratory tract infections due to the following factors:

  • Have  a smoking habit 
  • Has a weak immune system
  • Have a history  of heart disease  and lung problems
  • Lack of hygiene, such as not washing hands regularly before eating or after handling objects that are at risk of exposure to germs
  • Being in a crowded place, such as a hospital, office, school or shopping center
  • Travel to areas where there are many cases of respiratory infections

Respiratory Tract Infection Symptoms

Respiratory tract infections can cause a variety of symptoms. The appearance of symptoms usually depends on the type of germ causing the infection and the condition of the patient's immune system (immune system).

Some of the complaints that appear in patients with respiratory tract infections are:

  • Cough
  • Sneezes
  • Nasal congestion
  • Have a cold
  • Hoarseness
  • Sore throat
  • Headache
  • Fever
  • shivers
  • Muscle ache
  • The body is easily tired and weak
  • Swollen lymph nodes in the neck

Some of the other symptoms that sufferers of respiratory tract infections can experience are:

  • Hard to breathe
  • It's hard to breathe
  • Wheezing or wheezing
  • Itchy and watery eyes
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Bad breath
  • Decreased sense of smell

While symptoms of respiratory tract infections in infants or children include coughing, fever, difficulty eating, fussiness, difficulty sleeping, and breathing that seems fast. These symptoms can last for 3–14 days.

When to see a doctor

Check with  your doctor  if you experience symptoms of a respiratory tract infection as mentioned above, especially if the complaint gets worse or interferes with activities. Immediately see a doctor if symptoms last more than 14 days or if you experience the following complaints:

  • Fever with a temperature of 39ºC or above
  • Hard to breathe
  • The coughing got worse and was accompanied by vomiting
  • Loss of consciousness or fainting
  • In children, rapid breathing, visible intercostal space, wheezing, or a snoring-like breath sound

If you have been diagnosed with a respiratory tract infection, take control of the doctor according to the schedule. In addition to monitoring the results of therapy, routine checks also aim to reduce the risk of complications.

Diagnosis of Respiratory Tract Infection

The doctor will conduct questions and answers about the complaints experienced by the patient. After that, the doctor will conduct a thorough examination, including examining the patient 's nose, throat, neck and  chest wall .

To determine the cause and determine the severity of the patient's respiratory tract infection, the doctor will carry out supporting examinations, such as:

  • Blood test , to see an increase in the number of white blood cells in the blood which is a sign of infection
  • Scanning with  X-rays  and  CT scans , to check the condition of the lungs and airway
  • Examination of  phlegm  or sputum, to detect germs that cause respiratory tract infections
  • Pulse oximetry examination  , to detect breathing problems and check the amount of oxygen entering the lungs

Under certain conditions, doctors will also carry out molecular tests, such as PCR tests to detect diseases caused by viral infections, such as COVID-19 .

Respiratory Tract Infection Treatment

Treatment of respiratory tract infections will be adjusted to the patient's condition. Some cases of respiratory tract infections caused by viruses sometimes do not require specific treatment and can heal on their own.

However, to help relieve symptoms, patients can do the following independent treatments:

  • Get enough rest
  • Take a shower or bath in warm water
  • Eating hot food or drink
  • Drink enough water
  • Avoid exposure to cold air
  • Gargle with salt water

If the symptoms of a respiratory infection do not heal and get worse, go to the doctor immediately to get the right treatment. Several treatment options that can be given by doctors to treat respiratory tract infections include:


Administration of drugs aims to reduce the symptoms of respiratory tract infections. Some types of drugs that are usually given are:

  • Fever-reducing drugs  , such as paracetamol or ibuprofen, to reduce fever and reduce pain
  • Antibiotics , such as  amoxicillin , to treat respiratory infections caused by bacteria
  • Antihistamines , such as diphenhydramine and cetirizine, to reduce mucus discharge from the nose and itching in the throat
  • Antitussive drugs, to reduce coughing
  • Decongestants , such as pseudoephedrine or phenylephrine, to relieve nasal congestion
  • Corticosteroids , such as dexamethasone or prednisone, to reduce inflammation in the airways and reduce swelling in the bronchial tubes

Treatment in a hospital with intensive monitoring can be carried out by a doctor if the symptoms worsen, or complaints arise in the form of:

  • Hard to breathe
  • Loss of consciousness
  • There are signs of  shock
  • Respiratory disorders get worse so that the patient requires additional oxygen or other breathing apparatus


Although rarely performed, surgery may be performed if a person has a severe sinus infection ( sinusitis ), airway obstruction, or a peritonsillar abscess , which is a collection of pus or an abscess in the back of the throat.

Respiratory Tract Infection Complications

If not handled properly, respiratory tract infections can cause various complications, such as:

  • Otitis media
  • Pulmonary fibrosis
  • Bronchiectasis
  • Stop breathing
  • Respiratory failure
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Acute respiratory distress syndrome ( ARDS )
  • Sepsis

Prevention of Respiratory Tract Infections

Efforts that can be made to reduce the risk of respiratory tract infections are to make the following efforts:

  • Stop smoking and avoid secondhand smoke
  • Eat a healthy and nutritionally balanced diet
  • Exercise regularly
  • Implementing a clean and healthy lifestyle (PHBS)
  • Avoid contact with infected people
  • Reducing and managing stress in a positive way
  • Wash your hands  regularly with soap and running water or  hand sanitizer
  • Cover your mouth and nose and use a tissue every time you sneeze or cough
  • Keep yourself and the things around you clean

In addition to the methods above, getting  a flu shot  every year can also be done to prevent flu, especially in children. For mothers who have babies, it is recommended to give breast milk to their babies to strengthen the baby's immune system.

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