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What are the Different Respiratory System Diseases?

By Dulce Corazon
Updated May 17, 2024
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Respiratory system diseases are conditions that affect the different parts of the nose, throat, and lungs. There are many different respiratory system diseases affecting people from all over the world each year. Most of these diseases are caused by infection from viruses, bacteria, and fungi. Some infections can be mild, like the common cold, while others can occur long term and become life-threatening, like asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Other causes of respiratory system disease include genetic predisposition, environmental pollution, and lifestyle factors.

The different respiratory system diseases caused by infection from viruses are often mild and mostly need supportive therapy, like rest and drinking plenty of liquid. Often, such infections are contagious, transferred from one person to another through coughing and sneezing. There are other viral respiratory system diseases, however, that can pose a grave threat to the community, like the swine flu caused by H1N1 virus, bird flu caused by the H5N1 virus, and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) caused by the SARS coronavirus.

Bacterial infections of the respiratory tract include tonsillitis, whooping cough, tuberculosis (TB), and pneumonia, among many others. Symptoms like fever, body weakness, headache, pain during swallowing, and shortness of breath are often present. Some infections are easily cured with the use of antibiotics and plenty of rest, while others require long-term therapy, such as in the treatment of TB, which can require taking six to nine months of regular medication. Pneumonia can also be life threatening, if not managed early.

Fungal infections of the lungs include aspergillosis, cryptococcosis, and histoplasmosis. Travel to endemic areas and frequent exposure to bat and bird droppings can often cause infection in susceptible individuals. People who get infected with fungi are often immunocompromised, which means that their immune system is not working well. These include patients with acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS).

Other respiratory system diseases include asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). In asthma and COPD, there is often a narrowing of the airways manifested by shortness of breath. Factors leading to asthma include genetic predisposition and inhalation of harmful substances from the environment, with the disorder mostly manifesting during childhood. COPD, on the other hand, is usually caused by lifestyle and environmental factors like smoking, and is often seen in older people. Smoking has been greatly linked not only to asthma and COPD, but also to the development of lung cancer as well.

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Discussion Comments
By Sara007 — On Jul 12, 2011

Does anyone have a child with a respiratory system disease? I am curious as to what the initial symptoms were that had you take your child to a doctor for diagnosis. Also, how long did it take you to find out what was wrong with your son or daughter?

I am always worried about my children and sometimes I am not sure if they suffer from common colds or something more dangerous that needs a specialist. I have consulted with my doctor but he seems to think they will grow out of their allergies and trouble breathing. I am not really so sure of this and would like to see someone more experienced with respiratory system diseases.

By manykitties2 — On Jul 12, 2011

I had very severe asthma as a child and as far as respirator system diseases go, I really think asthma is one of the worst because it makes it difficult to live a normal life. With asthma I could never really play the way I wanted to or be active in the sports I loved.

For myself I was lucky enough that my condition lessoned, as I got older and I am now free from using asthma puffers. I still clearly remember the embarrassment of gym glass and huffing and puffing near my healthy classmates. Nothing is worse than not being to get enough air in your lungs. It is so painful and frightening.

By Monika — On Jul 11, 2011

I've never thought of the common cold as a human respiratory system disease. I just think of it as an annoyance I suffer at least 3 times every single winter!

However, I have my ways of dealing with the common cold. First, I drink a ton of tea. I don't know if there's any scientific basis supporting this but I think it helps me get better faster. Second, I take vitamin C and a few other vitamins that are supposed to support the immune system. Third, I rest. Seriously, rest is the key. I try not to strain myself too much and take off work if I can.

Even though these methods do help me shorten the length of my colds I still really wish someone would come up with a cure for it!

By indemnifyme — On Jul 11, 2011

@JessicaLynn - It's great you live in a state that banned smoking in bars and restaurants! Your fellow asthma sufferers must have been really happy when they instituted the ban too.

I just wanted to say that my boyfriend actually had the swine flu when it was going around. He hardly ever gets sick, but when he gets sick, he gets sick. He always catches something serious, never something minor like a cold.

He told me the swine flu actually wasn't that bad in his case. He felt better after a few days but his doctors had him stay home for a little while longer as a precaution to stop the spread. I know many people died from the swine flu but I think my boyfriend did already because he is generally young and healthy. Still it was scary when he had the swine flu!

By JessicaLynn — On Jul 10, 2011

I've suffered from allergy induced asthma pretty much my whole life. Allergy induced asthma is just what it sounds like: the asthma attacks are brought on by exposure to allergens.

Unfortunately, my allergies are pretty extensive. I'm allergic to mold, pollen, dogs, rabbits, dust, cigarette smoke and a few different chemicals. I can usually keep a pretty good handle on my asthma if I try to avoid allergens, but that's not always possible.

I remember being a kid and being so embarrassed I couldn't go over to certain friends houses. One of my friends had a mom who was a very disorganized person. Their house was a mess and so dusty! Every time I went over there it set off my asthma so eventually I just had to have her over to my house instead. Luckily she understood but it was a rather trying situation for a middle schooler!

It's definitely easier as an adult and the fact that my state banned smoking in bars and restaurants has been a huge help.

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