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General Practice 2023

11 most common respiratoryçacute;respiratory diseases (and what to do)

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11 most common respiratoryçacute;respiratory diseases (and what to do)
11 most common respiratoryçacute;respiratory diseases (and what to do)

Respiratory diseases are diseases that can affect structures of the respiratory system such as the mouth, nose, larynx, pharynx, trachea and lungs.

They can affect people of all ages and, most of the time, they are associated with lifestyle and air quality. That is, the exposure of the body to polluting agents, chemicals, cigarettes and even infections by viruses, fungi or bacteria, for example.

Depending on their duration, respiratory diseases are classified as:

  • Acute: have rapid onset, duration of less than three months and short treatment;
  • Chronicles: have a gradual onset, last more than three months and often require long-term use of medication.

Some people can be born with a chronic respiratory disease, which in addition to external causes, can be genetic, such as asthma. While acute respiratory diseases most often arise from infections of the respiratory system.

Main chronic respiratory diseases

Chronic respiratory diseases usually affect lung structures and may be linked with some type of inflammation of longer duration. People who smoke, more exposed to air pollution and dust, and allergic people are more at risk of developing these types of diseases.

The main chronic respiratory diseases are:

1. Chronic rhinitis

Chronic rhinitis is an inflammation of the inside of the nose that in some cases is caused by an allergy to animal hair, pollen, mold or dust, known as allergic rhinitis.However, rhinitis can also be caused by environmental pollution, rapid changes in the weather, emotional stress, excessive use of nasal decongestants, or eating spicy foods, and in these cases it is known as chronic non-allergic rhinitis.

The symptoms of chronic allergic and non-allergic rhinitis are basically the same, including sneezing, dry cough, runny nose, stuffy nose and even a headache. Itchy nose, eyes and throat is very common when chronic rhinitis is caused by allergies.

What to do: an otolaryngologist should be consulted to confirm the diagnosis and initiate appropriate treatment, which is mainly based on the use of antihistamines and nasal sprays. In some cases, the doctor may recommend surgery, but it is rare and is usually indicated when other treatments are no longer effective.

It is recommended that people who suffer from chronic allergic and non-allergic rhinitis avoid contact with cigarette smoke, use rugs and plush, keep the house airy and clean, and wash bedding frequently and in hot water.See here for other natural ways to relieve rhinitis symptoms.

2. Asthma

Asthma is a very common disease in male children and occurs due to inflammation in the inner parts of the lung, causing swelling and reducing the passage of air in these structures. Therefore, the main symptoms of asthma are shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, cough without phlegm, wheezing and fatigue.

The cause of asthma is unknown, but having allergies, having a parent with asthma, having had other respiratory infections, and being exposed to air pollution may be related to the onset of asthma attacks.

What to do: Asthma cannot be cured, so it is important to follow up with a pulmonologist and use prescribed medications, such as bronchodilators, corticosteroids and anti-inflammatory drugs. Doing breathing exercises with the help of a physical therapist can help. It is recommended that people with asthma expose themselves as little as possible to products that cause an asthma attack.Learn more about treating asthma.


Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is a set of lung diseases that obstruct the passage of air in the lungs. The most common are:

  • Lung emphysema: happens when inflammation obstructs air sac-like structures in the lung, the alveoli;
  • Chronic bronchitis: occurs when inflammation blocks the tubes that carry air to the lungs, the bronchi.

People who smoke or who are exposed to chemicals for a long time are more likely to develop these types of diseases. The most common symptoms include a persistent cough for more than three months, with phlegm and shortness of breath.

What to do: It is recommended to seek the care of a pulmonologist, as these diseases have no cure, but it is possible to control the symptoms. Some medications that may be indicated by the doctor are bronchodilators and corticosteroids.In addition, quitting smoking and reducing the inhalation of chemical agents prevent these diseases from getting worse. Understand better what COPD is, what the symptoms are and what to do.

4. Chronic sinusitis

Chronic sinusitis happens when the empty spaces in the nose and face become clogged with mucus or swelling for more than twelve weeks and do not improve despite treatment. People who have chronic sinusitis experience pain in the face area, tenderness in the eyes, stuffy nose, cough, bad breath and sore throat.

People who have been treated for acute sinusitis, who have nasal polyps or deviated septum are more likely to develop this type of sinusitis.

What to do: the otorhinolaryngologist is the most suitable for monitoring people who have this type of disease. The treatment for chronic sinusitis consists of the use of medicines such as antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, corticosteroids and antiallergics.Learn more about treatments for chronic sinusitis.

5. Tuberculosis

Tuberculosis is a contagious disease caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium tuberculosis, more popularly known as Koch's bacillus (BK). This disease affects the lungs, but depending on the degree, it can affect other organs of the body such as kidneys, bones and heart.

Overall, this disease causes symptoms such as coughing for more than three weeks, coughing up blood, breathing pain, fever, night sweats, weight loss, and shortness of breath. However, some people may be infected with the bacteria and not have symptoms.

What to do: Tuberculosis treatment is indicated by the pulmonologist and is based on the use of a combination of several antibiotics. Medicines prescribed by the doctor must be taken as directed and usually the treatment lasts for more than 6 months. Learn more about home remedies to treat TB symptoms.

Main acute respiratory diseases

Acute respiratory illnesses are usually linked to some type of infection of the respiratory system. These diseases appear quickly and must be treated and monitored by a doctor.

It is important to remember that acute respiratory diseases can often become chronic depending on the person's he alth status or if they have not been treated correctly. In addition, most respiratory diseases are contagious, that is, they pass from one person to another.

The main acute respiratory diseases are:

1. Flu

The flu is an infection caused by the Influenza virus and lasts around 7 to 10 days. Flu symptoms are known as cough, headache, fever and runny nose. Generally, in winter, people stay in crowded places, so flu cases increase.The cold is often confused with the flu, but it is caused by another type of virus, better understand the differences between flu and cold.

What to do: In most cases, flu symptoms improve with home treatment. However, children, the elderly and people with low immunity should be accompanied by a general practitioner. Flu treatment is based on the use of medication to relieve symptoms, fluid intake and rest.

Currently, there are flu vaccination campaigns by the SUS for people at greater risk of contracting the flu, but it is also available in private clinics.

2. Pharyngitis

Pharyngitis is an infection caused by a virus or bacteria that affects a region at the back of the throat, also known as the pharynx. The most common symptoms of pharyngitis are pain when swallowing, a scratchy throat and fever.

What to do: Treatment for pharyngitis will depend on whether it is caused by a virus, called viral pharyngitis, or if it is caused by bacteria, known as bacterial pharyngitis.If symptoms continue after 1 week, it is important to see a general practitioner or otolaryngologist who will prescribe antibiotics if the pharyngitis is bacterial. In the case of viral pharyngitis, the doctor may prescribe medication to relieve the sore throat.

It is always important to remember that the person with pharyngitis should rest and drink plenty of fluids. Find out more about what to do to relieve pain and burning in your throat.

3. Pneumonia

Pneumonia is an infection that affects the lung alveoli that function as air sacs. This disease can affect one or both lungs and is caused by viruses, bacteria or fungi. The symptoms of pneumonia can vary from person to person, especially if you are a child or elderly person, but in general they are high fever, pain in breathing, coughing up phlegm, chills and shortness of breath. Check out other pneumonia symptoms here.

What to do: You should consult your general practitioner or pulmonologist, as pneumonia can get worse if left untreated.The doctor will prescribe medication that has the function of eliminating the infection, which can be antibiotics, antivirals or antifungals. In addition, your doctor may prescribe some medications to relieve pain and reduce fever.

Some people are at greater risk of suffering from pneumonia such as children under 2 years old, adults over 65 years old, people with low immunity due to some disease or who are undergoing chemotherapy. Therefore, in these cases, when the first symptoms of pneumonia appear, it is important to seek medical attention as soon as possible.

4. COVID-19

COVID-19 is an acute respiratory disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which affects the respiratory system and can lead to symptoms up to 14 days after infection. Initially the symptoms of COVID-19 are similar to those of the flu, however as the virus multiplies in the body, there may be loss of smell and taste, chest pain and difficulty breathing.Know how to recognize the symptoms of COVID-19.

What to do: in the presence of suspected COVID-19, it is recommended to call the he alth system so that the necessary guidance can be given in order to avoid the risk of disease transmission. In cases where it is recommended to go to the hospital, it is important that a disposable mask is used and that the hands are washed and disinfected frequently, as this is how it is possible to prevent the transmission of the virus to other people.

In the hospital, tests will be carried out to help verify the severity of the disease and the need for hospitalization, which may be recommended in the most serious cases of COVID-19. In milder cases, it may only be indicated that the person rests, drinks plenty of fluids throughout the day, has a light diet and is in isolation, and the use of painkillers to relieve symptoms may also be indicated by the doctor. Understand how treatment for COVID is done.

5. Acute bronchitis

Acute bronchitis happens when the tubes that carry air from the windpipe to the lungs, called the bronchi, become inflamed. This type of bronchitis is short-lived and is usually caused by a virus. Bronchitis symptoms can often be confused with flu and cold symptoms as they are similar, including a runny nose, cough, tiredness, wheezing, back pain, and fever.

What to do: Acute bronchitis lasts an average of 10 to 15 days and symptoms tend to disappear within this period, but follow-up with a general practitioner or pulmonologist is important so that complications do not occur. If symptoms persist, especially coughing up phlegm and fever, it is necessary to return to the doctor. Find out more about bronchitis remedies.

6. Acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS)

Acute respiratory distress syndrome happens when there is accumulation of fluid in the alveoli, which are the air sacs inside the lungs, which causes not enough oxygen to reach the blood.This syndrome usually appears in people who already suffer from another lung disease in a more advanced stage or someone who has had a serious accident such as drowning, injuries in the chest region, inhalation of toxic gases.

Other serious diseases can cause ARDS, such as serious diseases of the pancreas and heart. It is important to remember that ARDS usually occurs in very debilitated people who are hospitalized, except in the case of accidents. Here's what childhood ARDS is and how to treat it.

What to do: ARDS requires emergency care and treatment is performed by multiple doctors and must be done within a hospital unit.

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