Acute Respiratory Infection (ARI): Symptoms, Causes and Treatment

An acute respiratory infection or ARI is a disease that can spread throughout the respiratory system and can even be life-threatening if not treated immediately. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), acute respiratory infections cause the death of around 2.6 million children each year worldwide.

What is ARI?

An acute respiratory infection or ARI is an infection that can interfere with breathing. This condition can affect the upper respiratory system, which starts in the sinuses to the vocal cords, or only occurs in the lower respiratory system, which starts in the vocal cords to the lungs.

ARI is a common disease affecting children, the elderly (elderly), and can be dangerous for people with immune system disorders.

Symptoms of ARI

Early symptoms of acute respiratory infections usually appear in the nose and upper lungs. Other symptoms include:

  • Nasal congestion, either in the nasal sinuses or the lungs
  • Runny nose
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Aches
  • Fatigue

If ARI continues, it may cause the following symptoms:

  • High fever
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Headache
  • Low blood oxygen level
  • Lost consciousness

When to see a doctor?

Most ARI will recover without medical treatment, but immediately see a doctor if the symptoms get worse, like this:

  • Hard to breathe
  • Fever lasts more than 3 days
  • ARI has an impact on health conditions
  • Symptoms of ARI last more than 2 weeks
  • Lips turned blue
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Symptoms get worse over time
  • ARI relapsed soon after traveling

Causes of ARI

Viruses that cause acute respiratory infections can enter the body through the nose or mouth. The virus spreads easily through air contaminated by the coughing or sneezing of an infected person. This virus is also transmitted to other people through direct contact, such as shaking hands.

This virus can live for hours on various objects and toys. Touching the mouth, nose or eyes after touching a contaminated object may also be affected by the virus.

The infected person is most contagious in the first few days after infection. However, the virus can continue to spread for several weeks.

Some viruses that can cause acute respiratory infections are as follows:

1. Adenovirus

This virus is a type of microorganism that can be a cause of ARI. Adenoviruses consist of more than 50 types of viruses that are also known to cause colds, bronchitis, and pneumonia.

2. Pneumococcus

Pneumococcus is a type of bacteria that causes meningitis. However, this can also trigger certain respiratory diseases such as pneumonia.

3. Rhinovirus

Rhinovirus is a common source of infection in humans and usually causes the common cold, but in children, the elderly, and people with weakened immune systems, colds can progress to ARI.

Risk Factors for ARI

Viruses and bacteria are easily spread and difficult to avoid, so the following factors can increase the risk of acute respiratory infections:

1. Children and the Elderly

The immune system of children and the elderly are more susceptible to the virus, so susceptible to ARI.

Children are especially at risk because of constant contact with other children who may be carriers of the virus. So even in children rarely wash their hands regularly.

They are also more likely to rub the eyes and put fingers in the mouth, which causes the spread of the virus.

2. Patients with heart and lung disease

People who have heart disease or lung problems are more at risk of developing acute respiratory infections.

3. Weak Immune System

People with a weak immune system may be very at risk of developing ARI because they are more susceptible to viruses.

4. Smokers

Active smokers are also very at risk of acute respiratory infections and even smokers who are also sufferers of ARI are more difficult to recover.

ISPA diagnosis

Initial examination to diagnose the disease, doctors may suspect ARI based on findings from physical examination and the time when symptoms appear. During the examination, the doctor will listen to the lungs through a stethoscope to check wheezing or other abnormal sounds.

Laboratory tests and imaging are usually not needed. However, this test can help diagnose ARI complications or rule out other conditions that can cause similar symptoms. Tests for diagnosing ARI include:

  • Chest radiograph to check for lung inflammation.
  • Taking a swab from the tongue or nose to check for signs of the virus.
  • Blood tests to check the number of white cells or look for viruses, bacteria and other germs.
  • Painless skin examination (pulse oximetry) to detect lower oxygen levels in the blood.

ARI treatment

Lifestyle changes and home remedies can ease the signs and symptoms of ARI. Here are some tips that you can apply to relieve symptoms:

1. Keeping the Room Air Humid

Keep the room warm but not too hot. If the air is dry, a humidifier can be used to moisturize the air and help relieve nasal congestion and coughing.

Be sure to keep the air humidifier clean to prevent the growth of bacteria and mold. The ideal indoor humidity is around 50 percent.

2. Rest and drink lots of fluids

Get enough rest and drink plenty of fluids. For that, always provide drinking water beside you. In addition, warm liquids such as soup can also help loosen the nose and throat from mucus.

3. Inhaling Steam and Gargling Salt Water

Inhalation of hot steam or gargling with salt water is a safe way to relieve symptoms of ARI.

4. Avoid cigarette smoke

Exposure to cigarette smoke can worsen the symptoms of ARI, so try to avoid it.

5. Nasal Drops

Using drops is a safe and effective way to reduce nasal congestion, even for children. Use a few drops into one nostril to loosen hardened or thick mucus.

6. Painkillers

Pain medications such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen can help reduce fever and relieve sore throat. However, beforehand ask the doctor first about the right dosage for the child’s age.

If the ISPA disease is severe, the doctor may advise the patient to get medical treatment at the hospital. Treatment includes:

  • Intravenous (IV) fluids
  • Humidified oxygen

Complications of ARI

If an ARI lasts a long time and does not get the right treatment immediately, it can change to one or more of the following conditions:

  • Stop breathing
  • Failure to breath
  • Congestive heart failure

Prevention of ARI

Although there is no vaccine for the virus that causes ARI. But there are a few tips that can help prevent the spread of infection:

1. Maintain Cleanliness

Make sure the residence is kept clean, starting from the dining table, kitchen table, and bathroom. If you cough or sneeze using a tissue, get rid of it as soon as possible.

2. Wash Your Hands Frequently

Always wash your hands thoroughly after doing any activity, and teach children about the importance of washing hands. Also clean children’s toys regularly, especially when a child or playmate is sick.

3. Don’t Share Drinking Glasses with Others

Use personal glasses or disposable cups when you or someone else is sick. For simplicity, put a label or mark on each person’s cup.

4. Avoid transmission of ARI

Limit baby’s contact with people who have a fever or runny nose. These tips are very important in premature babies and the first two months of the baby is born.

5. Don’t smoke

Infants exposed to secondhand smoke have a higher risk of developing ARI and even potentially more severe symptoms. If you are an active smoker, never do it indoors.

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