A respiratory infection occurs when respiratory epithelium lining the upper and/or lower tract are overcome by a virus, bacteria, or fungus. Upper respiratory infection is usually not serious, like the common “cold” or sinus infection. On the other hand, lower respiratory tract infection may be serious or even life threatening, such as pneumonia where pus fills the air sacs.
What can lead to respiratory infections?
Things that may increase the risk of respiratory infection are strenuous exercise, asthma, allergies, and immune suppression (i.e., from cancer, chemotherapy, or other conditions or medications). Recent studies have strongly suggested that children with asthma have fewer flare-ups and steroid usage when they go on a plant-based diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and grains, and eliminate animal products (meat, fish, dairy, eggs).
How can we lower the risk of getting respiratory infections?
There are things we can do to protect ourselves from respiratory infection, such as hand washing and avoiding others’ coughing and sneezing fits. Even gargling helps rinse away potential invading organisms. Other preventative measures are moderate exercise, which may strengthen the respiratory epithelium, and controlling asthma and allergies.
Topic summary contributed by John