The Difference Between Upper Respiratory and Lower Respiratory Tract Infections

Patrícia Silva, PhD avatar

by Patrícia Silva, PhD |

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As cystic fibrosis causes excessive mucus production, respiratory infections are quite common among patients. The NHS UK website has some useful information to help distinguish between upper and lower respiratory tract infections.

MORE: The danger of cross infections

Upper respiratory tract infections
Upper respiratory tract infections include things such as the common cold, tonsillitis, sinusitis (a sinus infection), laryngitis (infection of the voice box) and the flu.

In terms of symptoms, the most common are headaches, aching muscles, a stuffed-up or runny nose, sneezing and a sore throat.

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Lower respiratory tract infections
These also typically involve the flu, which can affect both the upper and lower respiratory tract, bronchitis (an infection of the airways), pneumonia (a lung infection), bronchiolitis (an infection of the small airways that affects babies and children up to the age of two) and tuberculosis (a more serious, bacterial lung infection).

The most common symptom of lower respiratory tract infections is coughing, but in more severe cases patients could cough up mucus and some suffer from breathlessness, wheezing and chest tightness.

MORE: Three types of cystic fibrosis treatment

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