As cooler weather approaches and sets in, it becomes much easier to contract and suffer from pulmonary and respiratory illnesses. Coughing, wheezing, and generally feeling as though you can’t breathe properly tend to be the characteristics of respiratory illnesses and they can be caused by either bacteria or a virus. Different diseases can be more or less serious than others, so depending on your symptoms and the length of your illness, you may need to come in to see your Raleigh general medical care team.
What is Respiratory Illness?
Respiratory illness has to do with the respiratory system and the mechanisms that your body uses to breathe. The lungs house tiny air sacs called alveoli that are the endpoints of the various tubes of the lungs (bronchioles) that exchange fresh oxygen for carbon dioxide. Additionally, with the aid of the diaphragm, the lungs act as a bellows to draw air in and to push carbon dioxide out.
Bacteria, viruses, or environmental factors like allergens or pollen can aggravate the system causing bronchioles and alveoli to become inflamed or contract, or for the lungs to produce mucus to help remove contaminants. Coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath can last for weeks to months and can be combined with other symptoms such as fever, sneezing, sore throat, and fatigue. If your symptoms worsen rapidly, fever reaches 104F or higher, or extreme difficulties breathing, you should seek emergency medical care.
What are the Symptoms of Respiratory Illness?
While some of broader symptoms of various respiratory illness are similar, there are very different illnesses that they could be associated with. Below we’ll discuss the top three easily treated respiratory illnesses: asthma, bronchitis, and pneumonia.
Asthma tends to be characterized by chest tightness, shortness of breath, wheezing, and coughing. Asthma is when your airways swell and tighten up, creating mucus and causing coughing and wheezing. Asthma is not curable but can be managed with the right treatment. It is normally brought on by something else, as allergies, exercise, environment, sleeping, or other reasons.
Asthma Prevention and Treatment
Asthma can be diagnosed by your primary care physician. While asthma cannot be cured, it can be prevented through properly managing your symptoms. Staying away from your asthma triggers, set an asthma action plan with your doctor and always follow it, and always identify and treat attacks as quickly as possible.
You should seek emergency medical treatment if shortness of breath from your asthma increases rapidly, if your inhaler starts to no longer provide relief from your asthma symptoms, or if you find that you’re short of breath when performing low impact physical activity.
Bronchitis typically shows itself through a productive cough that can be colored anywhere from clear to green, and accompanied by fatigue, shortness of breath, chest tightness, and low fever or chills. Bronchitis is caused normally by a cold or congestion that develops into the inflammation of the bronchial tubes and creates mucus.
Bronchitis comes in two kinds: acute and chronic. Acute bronchitis can last up to 10 days and is sometimes also called a chest cold. Chronic bronchitis can last for months and is characterized by a productive cough that requires seeing your primary care physician. Most bronchitis is viral, making antibiotics not needed.
Bronchitis Prevention and Treatment
Bronchitis is normally brought on by either a cold or flu for acute cases and by environmental irritants for chronic bronchitis, such as smog or cigarette smoking. Staying away from such irritants, washing your hands, and clean living can limit your risk of developing bronchitis. Bronchitis is contagious, so make sure to limit exposure to others, and to limit your own exposure to someone who has been diagnosed.
At-home treatment for your bronchitis should include drinking plenty of liquids and getting plenty of rest. You should see your doctor if your symptoms last for more than three weeks, if you develop a fever higher than 100 degrees, or if you start wheezing.
The symptoms of pneumonia are a productive cough, fever, chills, sweating, shortness of breath, and pain in your chest. It is caused by an infection in your chest, either by bacteria or a virus and is very contagious. The air tubes in your lungs become inflamed, produce mucus, and make it difficult to breathe. Pneumonia can require medical attention and antibiotics, so it’s best to see your primary care physician to get properly diagnosed.
Pneumonia Prevention and Treatment
There are vaccines available for some kinds of pneumonia, but generally, pneumonia can be prevented by practicing good hygiene, eating healthy, keeping your immune system strong, and not smoking. At-home treatment for pneumonia should be getting lots of fluids and rest, not trying to overdo it by going back to work too soon, and taking your medicine as directed.
Pneumonia can be life-threatening, so seek emergency medical attention if you have a persistent fever higher than 102 degrees, or your symptoms worsen rapidly.
Contact Med One Medical Group in Raleigh today
If your symptoms indicate that you may be suffering from a respiratory illness, contact your primary care physicians at Med One Medical Group to schedule an appointment. Call us at 919-850-1300 or schedule an appointment.