You may take breathing for granted, thinking that it is just an involuntary reflex action. But for the millions of people who suffer from respiratory diseases, each breath is a major accomplishment. Those people include patients with chronic lung problems, such as asthma, bronchitis, and emphysema, but they also include heart attack and accident victims, premature infants, and people with cystic fibrosis, lung cancer, or AIDS. In this booklet, however, we propose to discuss some of the common respiratory diseases.
The human respiratory system not only provides oxygen to each cell of the body but also removes body wastes, filters out infectious agents, and provides air needed for speech. Although the lungs are able to with stand abuse in the form of smoke and other pollutants, a number of disorders impair its function. Some of these maladies are temporary and relatively harmless; others may be life-threatening. Any chronic breathing problem or other cough should be checked promptly. Take care of your lungs and they will take care of you.
The information in this booklet is not intended as medical advice – the doctor knows best. This booklet only intends to help patients make informed decisions.
Know your Body
What we call the common cold is actually a set of symptoms of upper respiratory infection caused by a wide range of infectious viruses. Symptoms include watery nasal discharge, sneezing, stuffiness, sore throat, fatigue, muscle aches and headache, and – occasionally – fever. If the doctor suspects a cold, he will look out for inflamed nasal lining, a swollen turbinate, clear mucus or a red throat. In any case, call him if your fever fails to subside in 48 to 72 hours or if it exceeds 102 degrees F.
Because of the large number of viruses that can cause viral rhinitis, it is impossible for the body to develop immunity against a cold. The body may become immune to a particular virus. However, another one may come along producing the same symptoms. That is also the reason why no preventive vaccine has been developed for the common cold.
Colds do not arise because you become chilled or wet. The viruses that cause colds pass from person to person, usually through body contact with nasal secretions or because viruses come into contact with nasal secretions or branes. A cold usually takes 7 to 10 days to subside.
Over the counter decongestant medications and acetaminophen can temporarily reduce the symptoms of a cold. Recent studies suggest that the zinc, taken in the form of lozenges three or four times a day, may help reduce the length of the cold. However, these studies are inconclusive. Prevention, therefore, is the best defence against colds. Except for symptomatic treatments, there is no effective medical therapy for colds.