Respiratory Tract Infection (RTI): Causes, and More


Respiratory Tract Infection (RTI)

Respiratory tract infection (RTI) affects both the lower and upper respiratory tract. However, upper respiratory tract infections are more common and include common cold (rhinitis), influenza, laryngitis (inflammation of voice box), pharyngitis (sore throat), sinusitis, tonsillitis, and croup (in children). Most respiratory tract infections go away without treatment, but sometimes you may need to see your doctor.


The Upper respiratory tract includes the nose, sinuses, pharynx, and larynx. The lower respiratory tract consists of the trachea (windpipe), bronchial tubes, bronchioles, and the lungs.

Lower RTIs are more serious than the upper ones, and these infections are the leading cause of death among all infectious diseases. Bronchitis and pneumonia are the two most common lower respiratory tract infections. Influenza affects both the lower and upper respiratory tracts.

Respiratory Tract Infection Causes

Over 200 known viruses can cause upper respiratory tract infections. These viruses spread very fast and are extremely contagious. They can infect the respiratory tract of any person by direct contact like shaking hands, sharing food or drink, and kissing. They can also spread through coughing and sneezing.

The most common cause includes touching one’s eyes, nose, or mouth with own hands after touching the infected surfaces. Some of the acute pharyngitis cases may be caused by bacteria too. A sore throat caused by a bacterial infection is called strep throat.


Symptoms of upper respiratory infection usually include cold and cough, sore throat, runny nose, blocked nose, phlegm, headache, fever, facial pressure, earache, extreme sensitivity to cold and warm weather, and sneezing. The onset of the symptoms generally begins after 1-3 days of exposure to a virus.

The duration of the symptoms is typically 7 to 10 days but the infection may last for longer. As there are different types of respiratory tract infections, symptoms differ in all cases.

Common Cold Symptoms- sneezing, coughing, runny nose, congestion, headache, and sore throat. Fever may or may not be included.

Influenza Symptoms- Patients get flu suddenly without any warning and are at more discomfort than cold and cough. In addition to cold symptoms, flu patients usually experience high fever, headache, chills, body aches, weakness, and fatigue.

Laryngitis Symptoms- hoarseness and voice loss, while pharyngitis is a severe sore throat.

Sinusitis Symptoms- Symptoms of sinusitis may follow a cold that does not seem to go away and commonly include headache, pain, and pressure in the forehead, cheek, and nasal region, apart from cold symptoms.

Tonsillitis Symptoms- It is the condition of inflammation of the tonsils which leads to sore throat and difficulty in swallowing.

Croup Symptoms- Respiratory tract infections in children generally occur at night. The symptom of croup includes a harsh, bark-like breathing sound called stridor.

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Mainstream medicine also called allopathic medicine uses antibiotics to cure respiratory tract infections. However, the health authorities have been discouraging physicians to prescribe antibiotics to treat common upper respiratory tract infections because antibiotics do not significantly reduce recovery time for these viral infections.

There is no or little difference in the medical condition of the patients even after administering these medicines. Mainstream medicine has also adopted the strategy of treating upper respiratory infections with rest, increased fluids, etc. Home and herbal remedies seem to be the best treatment for respiratory infections.

Avoid these in respiratory tract infections

-avoid smoking as it can make the symptoms worse

-avoid aspirin in children below 16

-avoid breathing in steam from a bowl of hot water as it increases the risk of scalding

What you should do

-wash your hand thoroughly with soap and water regularly

-cover your mouth while coughing or sneezing

-dispose of used tissues immediately and safely

Respiratory Tract Infection Home Remedies

Over-the-counter cold, flu, and sinus remedies and pain relievers may provide temporary relief from symptoms, but do not shorten the duration of the respiratory tract infection. Following home remedies can be used to get fast relief from upper respiratory infections

  • Take rest and have plenty of fluids.
  • Gargle with salt water to get relief from sore throat symptoms.
  • Have a steaming bowl of soup to relieve congestion by loosening nasal secretions.
  • In the case of laryngitis, give rest to the voice box by not speaking too much and too loudly.
  • Take a diet high in good quality proteins that may include fish, seafood, skinless poultry, egg whites, lean meats, sprouts, soy, and low-fat dairy products.
  • Avoid sugar and refined cereals and grains and focus on whole grains, cereals, fresh fruits, and vegetables.
  • Vitamin C is a very good remedy for respiratory infections. Mix lemon juice with warm water and take it.
  • In case of respiratory tract infection in children, give them ginger and honey.
  • Inhale steam. Put some eucalyptus leaves or pudina(mint leaves) in the hot water before inhaling its steam. This will give relief from nasal congestion and a blocked nose.
  • Garlic is a natural antibiotic. Include it in the foods or soup made for children. Adults can take raw garlic cloves or can include them in food while cooking.
  • Mix sugar-candy, turmeric powder, pepper powder, and Thippili, or Piper longum powder with a glass of milk.
  • To get relief from sneezing, have a juice of betel leaves with honey.
  • To get relief from dry coughs without phlegm, keep the throat lubricated by having milk and ghee (clarified butter).
  • For coughs with phlegm, use a decoction of licorice root with honey.
  • Black pepper taken with ghee, sugar, and honey is another good remedy for cough.
  • Take out fresh juice of onion and mix it with Jaggery for relief from cough.

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