The respiratory tract can be categorized into upper and lower compartments. The upper airway extends from the sinonasal region to the larynx. The cells of the upper airway are occasionally seen in lower respiratory tract specimens. The lower respiratory extends from the trachea to the lungs. The singular function of the respiratory system is to serve as a gaseous exchange route between the atmosphere surrounding the body and the tissues within the body. This allows the cells to have access to the oxygen they require and also a way of dispelling their carbon dioxide waste.
Threat to the Respiratory System
Any abnormality involving the respiratory system that interferes with its main function is a potential threat to every organ, tissue, and cell within the body. This can result in a general condition of oxygen deficiency complicated by carbon dioxide poisoning. A certain amount of this kind of interference, impairing ventilation, is one of the most common complications of respiratory diseases. An excessive amount of respiratory diseases is infectious. Namely, infections of the upper respiratory tract, represent the most common of all the illnesses.
The Paranasal Sinuses
The paranasal sinuses include the frontal sinuses, located in the lower forehead between and above the eyes, the ethmoidal group of sinuses, both anterior and posterior, extending along the roof of the nostrils, the sphenoid sinuses, opening at the rear; and, located on either side of the nose, the maxillary sinuses. The lining of the paranasal sinuses is the same type of ciliated epithelium that lines the nasal passages. The turbinate bones, so named because of their shell–like appearance, are modified by shape and position to increase the surface of the mucous membrane of the nasal passageways and slightly obstruct the current of air flowing through them.
When Air Enters the Nose…
The current of air entering into the anterior nostrils is deflected upward to the roof of the nose, describing a roundabout route before reaching the nasopharynx. It then comes in contact with a large surface of moist, warm, mucous membrane that practically catches all the dust and germs in the inhaled air. This air is moistened and warmed to body temperature and brought into contact with sensitive nerves. Some of these nerves detect odors and others of which provoke sneezing in order to expel the irritating dust. The pharynx is the throat. It is limited below by the larynx and the upper end of the esophagus. The upper extension of the pharynx is the nasopharynx, where the posterior nostrils and the Eustachian tubes from the middle ear open.
Other Parts of the Respiratory System
The nose and the nasopharynx are lined with the same type of ciliated epithelium as the trachea and the bronchial tree. The pharynx, which serves as both a respiratory passage and an alimentary passage is lined with squamous, flat–celled, epithelium. The tonsils are two almond-shaped bodies, situated on each side at the back of the throat. The adenoid, or pharyngeal tonsil, is located in the roof of the nasopharynx. The tonsils and the adenoids comprise only two of a ring of similar masses of lymphoid tissue that completely surrounds the throat. These organs are important links in the chain of lymph nodes which guards the rest of the body against invasion of organisms entering the nose and the throat.
The larynx is an epithelial–lined cartilaginous structure forming the upper edge of the trachea. The vocal cords are mounted in its lumen and are controlled by muscular attachments. The epiglottis, a valve flap attached over it, prevents the entry of ingested food and drink or any liquid. The entire function of the larynx, also known as the voice box, is to allow vocalization.
UPPER RESPIRATORY TRACT INFECTIONS (URTI)
These are sicknesses caused by an acute infection which involves the upper respiratory tract including the nose, sinuses, pharynx or larynx. This commonly includes nasal obstruction, sore throat, tonsillitis, pharyngitis, laryngitis, sinusitis, otitis media, and the common cold. Most URIs are caused by viruses. Only 25 percent are due to bacteria. Unfortunately, the majority of URIS are treated with an antibiotic. As a result, this leads to antibiotic resistance. Medical specialists state that inappropriate use of antibiotics is the leading cause of antibiotic resistance in community–acquired bacteria specifically Streptococcus pneumonia.
The Common Cold
You’re familiar with those uncomfortable symptoms- nasal congestion, runny nose, sneezing, sore throat, cough, hoarseness, body weakness, and fever. The common cold has an acute onset that usually lasts for a week or less. The culprits are a variety of viruses which include the coronaviruses, rhinoviruses, influenza and parainfluenza viruses, adenoviruses and respiratory syncytial virus. Bacteria cause only 0.5 to 2 percent of common cold cases. Hence, antibiotics aren’t indicated and are useless. Best ways to tame these symptoms are bed rest and increased fluid intake. Resting in bed also prevents you from transmitting the virus. If you’re feeling weak and/or have a fever with a temperature above 38 °C or above 100 °F, paracetamol can ease these symptoms.
Those air cavities present in your frontal and maxillary bones of your skull are called sinuses. They are named according to the bones they occupy – the maxillary, ethmoid, sphenoid and frontal sinuses. When your sinuses are inflamed, the condition is called sinusitis. In acute sinusitis, you‘ll be ill in a span of 4 weeks or less. If your sinus condition lasts longer than 12 weeks, you have chronic sinusitis.
The very same viruses of the common cold cause acute sinusitis. It can also be due to bacteria most commonly by Haemophilus influenza, Streptococcus pneumonia and Moraxella catarrhal. You’d be feeling facial pain or the pain may be referred to the tooth, nasal congestion, thick nasal discharge, and headache. The location of the pain in your face, brow or head would indicate just what sinuses are affected. If you experience exquisite maxillary facial pain, it means your maxillary sinuses are inflamed. The pain would get worse when you bend down or when you lie down. Your ENT specialist would determine the causative microorganism. Actually, it is difficult to determine if the cause is viral, fungal or bacterial as based on your presenting symptoms. Basically, sinusitis that lasts less than 7 days would be considered viral at most.
On the other hand, if your sinusitis persists for more than 12 weeks despite decongestants and other measures, it can either be bacterial or fungal in nature.
Chronic bacterial sinusitis
You have a chronic bacterial sinusitis if you experience repeated sinusitis. The cause is traced to an impaired mucociliary clearance of secretions in your sinuses. Simply put, those cilia – tiny hair-like structures in your sinuses – don’t do their job of sweeping off mucus. Then, you constantly suffer from nasal congestion and increasingly intense facial pain and pressure.
Tissue cultures and biopsy will be done to guide your physician to the right treatment. Also, your ENT specialist will utilize sinus CT scans to determine the severity of your disease and track your progress. Your physician will manage you with the appropriate antibiotics for 3-4 weeks. If that isn’t enough, adjunctive therapies are administered to ease congestion and pain. Examples are nasal irrigation and glucocorticoid intranasal administration. You’ll be evaluated if surgery is the best treatment option. Sometimes though, despite the aggressive treatment, recurrence is still a woeful occurrence in chronic bacterial sinusitis.
Chronic fungal sinusitis
If the causative microorganism is a fungus, your condition is a chronic fungal sinusitis. This crops up in patients with compromised immune systems. This means your immune system isn’t efficient to kill those fungi in your system. However, chronic fungal sinusitis is a mild, non-invasive disease. Your trained ENT specialist will do endoscopic surgery to treat the condition even without anti-fungal medications. In unilateral sinus disease, a fungal ball or mycetoma is usually visualized in the infected sinus. If you have this unique condition, your ENT specialist will manage it with surgery and anti-fungal medications. If you have polyps or asthma, you’ll be prone to allergic fungal sinusitis.
Misinformation on the nature and treatment of URIs from the common cold to the rare fungal chronic sinusitis can make you suffer more, waste your time, money and effort. It is always best to consult expert and experienced physicians treating these conditions – the ENT specialists. They’ll offer you the best advice and treatment. So be wise. Most infections are viral in nature and in other instances the cause is bacterial.
Upper respiratory tract infections can also be fungal or helminth in origin, but these are far less common. In 2015, 17.2 billion cases of upper respiratory infections are estimated to have occurred. As of 2014, upper respiratory infections caused about 3,000 deaths down from 4,000 in 1990. In uncomplicated colds, cough and nasal discharge may persist for 14 days or more even after other symptoms have resolved. Acute upper respiratory tract infections include rhinitis, pharyngitis/tonsillitis and laryngitis (common cold), and their complications: sinusitis, ear infection and sometimes bronchitis (though bronchi are generally classified as part of the lower respiratory tract.)
UPPER RESPIRATORY INFECTION SYMPTOMS
Basically, an upper respiratory infection is anything above your shoulders. It includes coughing too, though generally coughs from upper respiratory infections are caused by drainage and irritation in the throat, rather than deeper in the lungs. Most upper respiratory infections are caused by viruses such as the common cold. Typical symptoms of upper respiratory infections include congestion, headache, sore throat, cough, runny nose, earache (occasionally), nasal congestion, low–grade fever, facial pressure, and sneezing.
Treatment comprises symptomatic support usually via analgesics for a headache, sore throat and muscle aches. Moderate exercise in sedentary subjects with naturally acquired URTI probably does not alter the overall severity and duration of the illness. No randomized trials have been conducted to ascertain the benefits of increasing fluid intake. However, you should visit your doctor to talk about the remedy you are going to use.
- Infuse 2 tablespoons of grey alder stems with a glass of boiling water and boil the tincture for 15 minutes on a small fire. Let it brew for 45 minutes and decant the decoction. Drink one–third of a glass or half a glass of the tincture 2–3 times a day before a meal. This remedy is particularly advisable for those suffering from not only acute upper airway inflammation, but also rheumatism or polyarthritis.
- Infuse a tablespoon of red bilberry leaves, blossoms or/and fruits with a glass of boiling water and leave the tincture to brew for 30 minutes. Afterward, decant it and take 2 tablespoons of the decoction 4–5 times a day.
- Infuse a tablespoon of greater plantain leaves with a glass of boiling water and leave the tincture to brew for 2 hours. Afterward, decant it and take a tablespoon of the decoction 4 times a day 20–30 minutes before a meal or during a coughing attack. You can make a syrup for children by mixing 3 tablespoons of granulated fresh leaves with 3 tablespoons of honey or sugar. Warm the mixture up (do not boil) and let it brew for 4 hours. Afterward, warm it up and decant to get the syrup. Give a teaspoon of it 4 times a day 30 minutes before a meal.
- Infuse a tablespoon of Japanese quince blossoms with a liter of boiling water and leave the tincture to brew for half an hour. Afterward, decant it and drink half a glass of the decoction to deal with the troublesome dry cough.
- Infuse a tablespoon of dill fruits with a glass of boiling water and let the tincture brew for 30 minutes. Afterward, decant it and take a tablespoon of the decoction 4-5 times a day. In addition, the tincture has weak diuretic action and can be used to facilitate digestion.
- Infuse a tablespoon of southern blue gum leaves with half a liter of boiling water. Leave the tincture to brew for 2 hours. Decant it and drink one fourth or half of a glass of hot decoction 3-4 times a day. In addition, you can breathe the steam of the decoction.
- Infuse a tablespoon of cowslip tops and/or root with a glass of boiling water. Leave the tincture to brew for 10-20 minutes. Decant it and take the tincture to brew for 10–20 minutes. Decant it and take a tablespoon of the decoction 4–5 times a day to deal with cough.
There is no vaccine or magic pill to prevent upper respiratory infections or the common cold and there likely never will be. But every day, steps can reduce your chance of getting one. Wash your hands effectively, cover your cough, and stay away from people that you know are sick. Avoid touching your eyes and face, eat a well-balanced diet and get regular exercise. Out of all of these tips, washing your hands is the most important. But they can all help you stay healthy and avoid germs throughout your day. Upper respiratory infections are common and can’t be prevented 100% of the time. But they are rarely serious for otherwise healthy people.