Respiratory Infections

Respiratory Infections

Respiratory infections are a diverse group of illnesses that affect the respiratory system, including the nose, throat, bronchi, and lungs.

These infections can be caused by various microorganisms, such as bacteria, viruses, fungi, or parasites. The respiratory system plays a crucial role in breathing and maintaining the body’s oxygen balance, making infections in this area particularly impactful on overall health.

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Types of Respiratory Infections

Upper Respiratory Tract Infections

These infections involve the nose, throat, and bronchi, and are generally less severe than lower respiratory tract infections.

  • Common Cold: Caused by rhinoviruses, coronaviruses, and other viruses. Symptoms include a runny nose, congestion, sore throat, and cough.
  • Influenza: Also known as the flu, this is a more severe viral infection than the common cold, caused by influenza viruses. Symptoms include fever, chills, muscle aches, cough, congestion, and fatigue.
  • Sinusitis (Sinus Infection): Inflammation of the sinuses, which can be caused by both viruses and bacteria. Symptoms include headache, facial pain, nasal congestion, and a runny nose.
  • Laryngitis: Inflammation of the larynx, often caused by a viral infection. Symptoms include hoarseness, loss of voice, and a sore throat.

Lower Respiratory Tract Infections

These infections involve the trachea (windpipe), bronchioles (small airways), and lungs, and they tend to be more severe.

  • Acute Bronchitis: Inflammation of the bronchi, usually viral. Symptoms include cough, production of mucus (sputum), and sometimes wheezing.
  • Pneumonia: Infection of the lungs that can be caused by bacteria, viruses, and fungi. Symptoms include fever, cough with phlegm, chest pain, and difficulty breathing.
  • Bronchitis: Often caused by the Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV), this condition is most common in infants and young children. It involves the bronchioles and is characterised by coughing, wheezing, and difficulty breathing.
  • Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD): While COPD is a chronic condition, infection can exacerbate its symptoms, leading to increased breathlessness, coughing, and production of sputum.
Coughing feature


Symptoms will differ depending on the infection and individual, however, the most common symptoms are:

  • Coughing

  • Sneezing

  • Shortness of breath

  • Chest discomfort

  • Fever

  • Fatigue

  • Runny or stuffy nose

Transmission and Risk Factors

Respiratory infections are typically spread through respiratory droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes, or through contact with contaminated surfaces. Risk factors for respiratory infections include age (very young and elderly), weakened immune systems, smoking, chronic health conditions (such as asthma and COPD), and crowded living conditions.

North Brisbane Sleep & Thoracic | North Lakes & Clayfield | Brisbane
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When to See a Doctor

If you have a lingering cough for at least one week, schedule an appointment with your GP. They will first prescribe you with multiple rounds of antibiotics, and if they are unsuccessful, they will then refer you to North Brisbane Sleep and Thoracic.

Other signs that you may need to see a healthcare provider include:

  • Rapid or difficult breathing
  • Fever higher than 39 Celsius
  • Dizziness
  • Wheezing
  • Shortness of breath
  • If you experience a mix of the above-mentioned symptoms


The diagnostic process usually begins with a thorough patient history and physical examination, where your healthcare provider will assess your symptoms, their duration, and any potential exposure to infectious agents or environments that could contribute to symptoms.

Typically, the next stage is laboratory tests, involving either blood tests, throat swabs, or sputum tests. These tests can analyse bacteria and help diagnose specific infections.

Depending on the results of the laboratory tests, imaging tests may need to be performed. Chest X-rays can help in diagnosing conditions affecting the lungs, while CT scans provide more detailed images of the lungs and can help diagnose complications of respiratory infections.


  • Vaccination: Immunisation against influenza and pneumonia can significantly reduce the risk of infections.
  • Hand Hygiene: Regular handwashing helps prevent the spread of viruses and bacteria.
  • Respiratory Etiquette: Covering the mouth and nose while coughing or sneezing can prevent the spread of respiratory droplets.
  • Good Respiratory Practices: Avoiding smoking, maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and managing chronic conditions can reduce the risk of respiratory infections.

Respiratory infections can range from mild, self-limiting illnesses to severe, life-threatening conditions. Protect yourself and others with North Brisbane Sleep and Thoracic’s specialist lung services.

Contact us to book an appointment

Visit us at either our Clayfield or North Lakes location and experience compassionate care in a comfortable environment, tailored to meet your unique needs.