What Is Acute Respiratory Infection?:Symptoms, Treatment

What Is Acute Respiratory Infection?

There is a severe infection that stops normal breathing. It usually starts as a viral infection in the nose, trachea, or lungs and spreads from one person to another.

ARI and its complications are the most frequent conditions of critical illness in infants and children.

Acute upper respiratory infection may conflict with normal breathing, which starting at your sinuses and ends at your vocal cords.

It includes all infections of less than 30 days duration, except the conditions of the ear lasting less than 14 days The incidence of ARI is highest in young children, mostly below five years of age, and decreases with the increasing age.

Acute Respiratory
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Table of Contents

Types of acute respiratory infection

Depending upon the site of infection of the respiratory tract, ARI can be classified as follows:

  • Acute upper respiratory infection: These include common cold, rhinitis, nasopharyngitis, and otitis media.
  • Acute lower respiratory diseases: These include epiglottises, laryngitis, bronchitis, bronchiolitis, pneumonia.

The causative organisms of the infection  may occur during Acute respiratory infection:

  • Bacterial- pneumococcus, staphylococcus, streptococcus, H.influenzae, klebsiella, M.tuberculosis, E.coli, H.pertussis 
  • Viral
  • Mycoplasma 
  • Fungal
  • Protozoal 
  • miscellaneous 

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Cause of acute respiratory infection

  • Viruses and bacteria cause acute respiratory infections. When a person with acute respiratory infections sneezing or coughs, saliva drops, which the pathogen enters the air. It causes others to breathe with the drops.
  • Some people touch the dirty place and put their hands over their mouths.
  • Smoking

To learn more, you can read: Is Rheumatic Fever Contagious?

Symptoms of acute respiratory infection

It depends upon the site and severity of infection, causative organism general health, and associated medical conditions.

Common manifestation are nasal discharge (watery or mucoid), cough, fever, anorexia, sore throat, irritability, chest pain chills, tachycardia, respiratory distress, ear problems, etc.

URI may present as dry cough with postnasal discharge, purulent nasal discharge, and inflammation of tonsils, pharynx, and glands.

Acute bronchitis; usually present with fever, dry cough wheezing and mild constitutional symptoms, cough, tachypnea.

Acute bronchiolitis; severe dyspnea, cough is either absent or mild, air hunger, cyanosis, chest retraction, wheezing, dehydration, and respiratory acidosis are usually found, diminished breath sound.

I have already covered :


  • Careful examination of clinical features.
  • Details history and auscultation of chest sound help in the diagnosis of ARI and Pneumonia.
  • Only in complicated cases, blood for TC, DC, ESR (erythrocyte sedimentation rate ), and chest x-ray can be done.


These complications can happen to you if you have this infection.

  • Pleural effusion
  • Emphysema
  • Atelectasis
  • Empyema lung abscess
  • Bronchiectasis
  • Otitis media, chronic sinusitis, pericarditis, osteomyelitis

Treatment of acute respiratory infection

Treatment depends upon the type of illness, the severity of infections, and associated complications.

The standard treatment for childhood ARI is recommended by the national ARI control program, especially for the primary health care setting.

The child with no pneumonia can be treated at home with home remedies for symptomatic treatment and does not require antibiotic therapy.

The child with pneumonia can be treated in the outpatient department (OPD) with oral antibiotics and other symptomatic treatments like antipyretic and bronchodilator.

The child with severe pneumonia should be hospitalized urgently and requires parental antibiotics with symptomatic treatment.

The child with severe disease needs immediate hospitalization and treatment with parenteral antibiotics, oxygen therapy, antipyretics bronchodilators, and other supportive care.

Antibiotic therapy is given with penicillin, ampicillin, cloxacillin, gentamicin, Amoxycillin, cephalosporin.

Bronchodilators like deriphyllin or salbutamol may be needed.

Supportive general measures include bed rest, propped up position, warmth, isolation, suctioning to remove secretion from the tracheobronchial tree, adequate fluid and dietary intake, humid environment, hygienic measures, clearing of air passage and nose, monitoring of child’s condition, chest physiotherapy and treatment of complication.  

In complication cases, surgical interventions may be needed, e.g., aspiration in case of empyema, closed chest drainage in case of pyopneumothorax, and ventilatory support in case respiratory failure.


Each type of ARI has to have characteristic features.

In some cases, the ARI fades within 1-2 weeks. When symptoms are increased, many home care techniques can be overused. Should consult a doctor if the signs get more severe.

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