Respiratory illnesses are some of the most common conditions out there. From symptoms of a common cold to specific conditions like asthma or bronchitis, people are constantly being diagnosed with and treated for respiratory ailments. But do you know what the most common respiratory illnesses are, and how to tell them apart? Many people do not – but having a general knowledge of these illnesses can make a big difference if you or someone you know is showing signs of respiratory infection.
COPD stands for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), and is a very common illness in the U.S. There are subtypes of COPD, but they all involve symptoms of breathlessness and not being able to exhale in a normal way. Various environmental factors such as pollution, genetics and smoking can lead to or exacerbate COPD.
Asthma is one subtype of COPD. This respiratory ailment is generally chronic, and is characterized by inflamed airways. Shortness of breath, wheezing, and panic are common symptoms of asthma. Over a third of all asthma sufferers are children, and the condition often (but not always) grows mild or disappears as the body matures. Unfortunately there is no cure for asthma, but modern treatments are very effective at limiting and controlling symptoms.
2. Chronic Bronchitis
Chronic bronchitis is the second subtype and is defined as a chronic productive cough for three months in each of two successive years in a patient in whom other causes of chronic have been excluded. The bronchial passages become inflamed which results in swelling in the lungs that essentially blocks the airways. Chronic bronchitis usually requires ongoing therapeutic treatments, and may persist for years in some people.
Emphysema is another subtype and is most commonly brought on by smoking, and the symptoms involve being unable to exhale properly. Essentially, the act of smoking causes damage to the air sacs in the lungs, which progresses over time. Generally speaking, emphysema is a progressive disease that grows worse over time. However, by quitting smoking and cutting out other bad habits, people can drastically reduce the effects and progression of the disease.
4. Acute Bronchitis
Acute bronchitis is a common clinical condition characterized by cough, with or without sputum production, which lasts for at least five days. It is typically self-limited, resolving within one to three weeks. Symptoms result from inflammation of the lower respiratory tract and are most frequently due viral infection. Since bronchitis is not a bacterial infection, antibiotics are not an effective treatment and treatment is focused on patient education and supportive care.
When the air sacs in the lungs become infected with a bacteria, virus or fungi, the result is pneumonia. Symptoms are wide-ranging, but most commonly include chills, cough, shortness of breath, and fever. Vaccinations and flu shots are actually a good protection against contracting pneumonia. Staying warm if you live in a wintry climate is also important. In most cases, people recover completely from pneumonia in one to three weeks – provided they receive proper treatment. Antibiotics may be used if the infection is bacterial in nature. Otherwise, patients often recover from pneumonia under strict treatment and observation in a hospital or clinic. Because pneumonia has the potential to be fatal, it’s important to seek treatment immediately if you or someone you know may have the infection.
Urgent care for pneumonia?
If you’re not sure about a respiratory illness and do not believe it to be life threatening, head over to a Family First Urgent Care location in either Oakhurst or Toms River for a fast diagnosis by a qualified provider—without having to make an appointment or wait!