Acute respiratory infection can be defined as the infection that makes it difficult to breathe normally. This infection can affect both your upper and lower respiratory system. The upper respiratory system starts at sinuses and end at vocal chords. While the lower respiratory system starts at vocal chords and ends at lungs. 

It can be a serious problem for children, people with immune system disorders and older people. Children are at higher risk as they are in contact with other children who could be virus carriers. Most of the upper respiratory infections are contagious and can spread easily. The infection can spread by inhaling respiratory droplets from sneezing and coughing.


The symptoms of upper and lower respiratory infection are different. But some common symptoms might include:

  • Runny nose
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion
  • Fatigue
  • Cough
  • Body aches.


There are plenty of causes for acute respiratory infection. These are some of the causes of the upper respiratory infection:

  • Acute pharyngitis
  • Common cold
  • Acute ear infection

The causes of the lower respiratory system are:

  • Bronchitis
  • Pneumonia
  • Bronchiolitis.


The diagnosis depends on the review of symptoms, laboratory tests, and physical examination. The doctors focus on your breathing. They will check for inflammation and fluid in the lungs. They usual do it by listening to the abnormal sounds made when you breathe. The doctor will check your throat, nose, and ear as well.

The doctor may take a swab from your mouth and nose. Another way they might ask you to cough up sputum. This will be to check the type of the virus that is causing the disease. In the physical examination of upper respiratory infection the doctor may look for:

  • Redness of the throat
  • Redness inside the wall of nasal cavity
  • White secretions on the tonsils
  • Enlargement of the tonsils
  • Facial tenderness
  • Redness of the eyes.

Moreover, the laboratory test is recommended for the diagnosis of the lower respiratory infection. Blood test and imaging tests are rarely required. In case the doctor believes that the infection in your lower respiratory system, an X-ray and CT scan is necessary. A useful diagnostic tool is lung function tests. Pulse Oximetry is helpful in checking how much oxygen gets into the lungs.

When treating respiratory infection doctor may prescribe medications to control the symptoms. They will monitor your condition. In the case of bacterial infection, they might prescribe antibiotics.

Therefore, Upper respiratory infection is among the common reasons to visit a doctor. It can happen anytime, happens mostly in fall and winter. You can restrict the spread of the infection by using simple methods. Cover your face while coughing or sneezing and wash your hands properly. Avoid touching your face especially your mouth and eyes. This is to avoid introducing germs into your system. Vitamin C is great for boosting your immune system. It is better to stop smoking as well.

DISCLAIMER: The medical information on this site is provided as an information resource only, and is not to be used or relied on for any diagnostic or treatment purposes. This information is not intended to be patient education, does not create any patient-physician relationship, and should not be used as a substitute for professional diagnosis and treatment.