What is a respiratory infection?

A respiratory tract infection affects the respiratory system, the part of your body responsible for breathing. These infections can affect your sinuses, throat, lungs, or airways. There are two types of respiratory infections:

  • Upper respiratory infections.
  • Lower respiratory infections.

What is an upper respiratory infection?

These infections affect your sinuses and throat. Upper respiratory infections include:

  • Common cold.
  • Epiglottitis.
  • Laryngitis.
  • Pharyngitis (sore throat).
  • Sinusitis (sinus infection).

What is a lower respiratory infection?

A lower respiratory infection affects the airways and lungs. In general, lower respiratory infections last longer and are more serious. These infections include:

  • Bronchitis, a lung infection that causes coughing and fever.
  • Bronchiolitis, a lung infection that mostly affects young children.
  • Chest infection.
  • Pneumonia.

What causes upper respiratory infections?

You get an upper respiratory infection when a virus (or bacteria) enters your respiratory system. For example, you might touch an infected surface or shake hands with a person who’s sick. You then touch your mouth, nose, or eyes. The germs from your hands enter and infect your body.

Who’s at risk for upper respiratory infections?

These infections are common, and anyone can catch one. Yet certain groups of people are more at risk of catching infections. Children are at a high risk since they are often with other children who may be carrying a virus. Children may also wash their hands less frequently than adults. Plus, they’re more likely to put their fingers in their eyes, nose, and mouth, allowing the germs to spread easily.

People who have heart or lung problems are also at higher risk of getting an upper respiratory infection. Those who have weak immune systems (due to another disease) may get more severe infections.