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THE ABC'S OF COMMON RESPIRATORY AILMENTS.

The approach of late summer brings with it the host of tree and plant pollens that affect the respiratory systems of millions of Americans. Lest these pollen allergies be confused with other respiratory problems, here's a list of the other most common conditions affecting the breathing apparatus--with definitions to help sort them out.

Asthma: Although not usually caused by viruses or bacteria, this very common disorder may be worsened by acute infections. Asthma is a chronic inflammation of the lining of the "bronchial tree"--the bronchi and their smaller branches, the bronchioles--resulting in narrowing of the airways and difficulty in breathing. The characteristic wheezing of asthma occurs when breathing out. Most common in children, asthma is a serious disease requiring careful medical management.

Bronchitis: Inflammation of the bronchus (the lower part of the windpipe) and/or its right and left branches, the main breathing tube that carries air from the throat into the lungs. Bronchitis is often a complication of the common cold, usually due to secondary infection.

Common cold: More than 200 different viruses cause the common cold, invading the nose and throat. Transmission of a cold virus is more often the result of handling objects contaminated by a person with a cold and then rubbing the eyes or the nose, rather than through direct inhalation of droplets from the sneeze or cough of an infected person. The best preventive measure for the common cold and other viral respiratory infections is frequent hand washing--with particular emphasis on frequently washing the hands of small children, both to prevent their infection and to reduce their contaminating everything they touch when they have a cold.

Influenza: A number of different viruses can cause this highly infectious respiratory disease that is typically accompanied by chills, fever, headache, muscle aches, and fatigue. The greatest danger of influenza is secondary bacterial infection, often causing death in the elderly or those with impaired respiratory function (e.g., chronic asthma).

Pneumonia: Many different infectious agents (bacteria, viruses, parasites, etc.) can cause this severe lung infection, characterized by coughing chills, fever, and difficulty in breathing. Pneumonia vaccine--which can now fight 23 of the prevalent types of bacteria responsible for the disease--is recommended for all adults over 65, as well as for persons with chronic respiratory problems.
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Publication:Medical Update
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Aug 1, 2000
Words:378
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