The respiratory system is the biological system that performs gas exchange from and to the body and includes organs of the airway passage the nasal cavity to the lungs, such as the pharynx, trachea, bronchus and lungs. Its main function is to supply the body with the oxygen needed for life, ie. filling up the lungs with fresh and removing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
Because the respiratory system is working non-stop and exposed to the outside environment, organs within the system are highly vulnerable to toxic substances that are present in the air around us, such as viruses, bacteria and pollens.
Reflex actions like secretion of mucus, sneezing and coughing are what the respiratory system does to get rid of certain foreign bodies. Macrophages are a type of cell that initiates defensive actions against viruses. The lungs are protected by macrophages which act as dust filters. Even with these defences, a weak body with low immunity also has low resistance to respiratory diseases.
Cold is one of the diseases that can strike at any time. Caused mainly by virus infection, cold symptoms are body ache, fever, cough, phlegm, sore throats, and runny, stuffy nose.
Common colds, classified as Cold 2 to 3, symptoms include acute inflammation in the upper respiratory tract – the nose, mouth, throat, and bronchial tubes. If minor, common colds take about a week or so to heal. However, colds can also be the source of other kinds of diseases like pneumomnia which can lead to serious complications if not treated early.
Runny nose, nasal congestion are symptoms of a head cold, but pain and swelling in the throat may indicate the presence of adenovirus, a type of virus that infects the upper respiratory tract.
It is said that there are as many as 200 different types of cold viruses, with each virus targeting a different cell.
In general, symptoms of cold are body ache, fever, cough, phlegm, sore throat, and runny, stuffy nose. But with a weakened respiratory system, the patient may be vulnerable to more serious effects or other diseases, so early
recovery is important as is choosing the right medication.
Typical ingredients of cold medicines
It’s not surprising that many people cannot tell the difference between having caught a cold and having influenza. The fact is, a flu virus and cold virus are not quite the same, even though some of the symptoms are similar. It’s important to know the difference between flu and cold symptoms. A cold is a milder respiratory illness. While cold symptoms can make you feel bad for a few days, flu symptoms can make you ill for up to a few weeks. The flu can also result in serious health problems such as pneumonia and may land you in the hospital, especially for people with pre-existing chronic illnesses such as liver disease or diabetes.
Cold. Affects mainly the respiratory tract. Symptoms include runny and stuffy nose, sore throat, fever (37ºC to 38ºC) and headache. Recovery time is about one week.
Influenza. The influenza virus can cause infections and lead to complications such as bronchitis and pneumonia. Symptoms include sudden high fever (38ºC to 40ºC), followed by severe headache, muscle and joint aches and severe fatigue and these symptoms may go on for up to a few weeks. Children and elderly should take extra precautions as exhaustion can pose dangerous consequences.
The throat is one of your body’s front line contact with foreign objects of all kinds, from food, drink and air. Because of that, any change in your body’s resistance can cause bacterial infection. A sore throat is an inflammation of the pharynx, or throat, and can be divided into chronic pharyngitis and acute pharyngitis.
Acute pharyngitis one of the symptoms of cold, when bacterial infection breaks the resistance of the pharyngeal mucosa (mucous of the throat).
Chronic pharyngitis is caused by repeated or acute pharyngitis, and nasal discharge flows into the throat because of the inflammation of the paranasal sinuses.
Sore throats can also be caused by excessive smoking, drinking, talking and dry air. But an inflammation of the throat signals a viral or bacterial infection.
When the whole throat hurts this condition is known as pharyngitis, where there’s pain and congestion. Acute pharyngitis can become chronic pharyngitis if condition is not improved.
Tonsils play an important role in preventing viral and bacterial infection from outside but this role is often weakened by physical fatigue and allergic reactions, and accompanied by fever.
This is when the throat is swollen by inflammation and is painful when swallowing or gargling. At this stage the inflammation has spread to the larynx. In addition, voice is affected. The larynx is the entrance to the respiratory system, so care should be taken with regards to breathing through the mouth.
Over-eating, over-working, excessive drinking, lack of hydration, lack of sleep… these are social habits that often trigger the onset of flu and colds. You may also want to avoid straining your throat when singing or talking.
A little swelling can get worse if left untreated. To prevent viruses from gaining a foothold, you could try gargling with mouthwash as soon as possible, or take throat drops. For sterilisation and disinfection of the throat, spray type of medication is also effective.
A cough is a sudden and often repetitively occurring reflex which helps to clear the respiratory passages from secretions, irritants and foreign particles. When inflammation is extended to the trachea (windpipe), secretions will be increased (phlegm). Coughing is a natural reflex to excrete the phlegm, sometimes to the extend of causing disturbances to daily activities or sleep.
Most coughs with phlegm are attributed to colds. With medication and rest, it’s not something to be worried about. But in cases where there’s breathing difficulty and the phlegm is yellow, consult a doctor immediately as it could be a sign of lung disease. See a doctor also if a wet cough continues for a few months; it could be chronic bronchitis.
Bronchitis is more commonly associated with respiratory disease than with common cold or influenza. It can occur sometimes by foreign stimuli like the smoke or fumes of chemical substances. Cough, accompanied by white or colourless phlegm and high fever.
The main symptom of this is prolonged cough with phlegm, starting in the early morning and getting worse at night. This is due mainly to smoking, and can be accompanied by a whistling sound when breathing which could signal the presence of bronchial asthma.
This is an inflammation of the tonsils most commonly caused by viral or bacterial infection. Symptoms may include sore throat and fever. Most people recover completely, with or without medication. In 40%, symptoms will resolve in three days, and within one week in 85% of people.
When a cough continues for a long time, it can be a huge drain on the body. Rest, and enough rest is really important. Make sure the room is warm. It’s also easier to sleep when the upper body is placed higher. A gentle back rub would aslo prove soothing.
Pollutants such as household dust, smoke, pollens all contribute to coughing. In addition, the cold and dry air from the air conditioner is also a contributor. If a humidifier is not available in an air conditioned room, you could place a wet towel near to you to help moisten the air around you.
Cough syrups, over-the-counter drugs and pastilles and lozenges are very common to relief coughs and sore throats, so have them handy.