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Acute Respiratory Illness

February 08, 2024 Posted in: Primary Care

Respiratory illnesses, spanning from nasal to lung-related conditions, vary in severity and are caused by viruses, bacteria, or environmental factors. To minimize the risk of contracting or spreading these illnesses, it’s important to follow preventive measures.

What are common acute respiratory illnesses?

There are various examples of acute respiratory illnesses, from sinusitis, pharyngitis and a sore throat, to more serious lower respiratory infections, bronchitis, influenza, or pneumonia. Symptoms  typically begin with throat discomfort, congestion, and drainage, but can extend to fatigue, body aches, and gastrointestinal issues like nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea.

How do acute respiratory illness spread?

Acute respiratory illnesses mainly spread through respiratory droplets, with transmission occurring through airborne, direct, indirect, and close contact. To reduce your risk of contracting a respiratory illness, maintain distance, practice frequent handwashing, and use hand sanitizer. Masks serve as effective barriers for those with COVID or flu, preventing the spread of respiratory droplets. Regular  exercise and vaccination, including annual flu and COVID shots, contribute to overall health protection.

Who is the most at risk of developing acute respiratory illnesses?

The elderly, individuals with weakened immune systems or chronic respiratory conditions (such as asthma or COPD), and those with diabetes are at the highest risk for respiratory infections. Smoking and vaping are additional lifestyle factors that increase susceptibility to respiratory infections.

What should I do if I have a respiratory illness?

For respiratory illnesses, prioritize vitamin C for immune support. You can also consider zinc and cough suppressants. If inflammation is a concern, especially with sinusitis, pharyngitis, or a sore throat, consult your health care provider about the potential benefits of a steroid pack or shot. In the case of flu or COVID, contact your health care provider for recommended options.

What are the consequences of not addressing acute respiratory illnesses?

If not addressed, respiratory infections can progress to pneumonia, often leading to hospitalization. Due to the risk of spreading to the bloodstream and causing sepsis, prompt and aggressive treatment is crucial to prevent hospitalization or severe complications. 

If experiencing an acute respiratory illness, promptly address the infection or consult your health care provider for guidance.

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