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Header Image for Respiratory tract infections

Respiratory tract infections

Acute respiratory tract infections

During respiration any number of pathogens can be carried into the lungs along with the air supply. Normally, the body′s immune system is able to fight these pathogens and they have no detrimental effects. However, if the immune system is no longer able to combat pathogen invasion owing to a disruption in immune balance, respiratory tract infections (RTIs) can arise. Acute RTIs are common and can affect all age groups, particularly during the winter months. Most RTIs — between 90 – 95% — such as the common cold, sinusitis, otitis, tonsillitis and acute bronchitis are caused by viruses.

Acute respiratory tract infections are generally self-healing but if they are left untreated there is a risk that complications will arise. The nasal cavity/pharynx is generally the starting point of an infection. This is where a common cold (rhinopharyngitis) develops, which is characterised by sore throat, a runny nose and lethargy. Pathogen ascent may then trigger sinusitis or otitis, whereas pathogen descent may lead to tonsillitis or acute bronchitis.

In addition, there is a certain risk of developing a chronic disease such as chronic or recurrent bronchitis. It is therefore important to realise that even respiratory tract infections that appear harmless at first sight should in fact be treated.

Over 90% of cases of respiratory tract infections are caused by viruses

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Respiratory infections occur less often in summer, but these infections tend to be more severe, because affected patients often have a weak immune defence.

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