Respiratory System

The easiest way for a healthy life is an active immune system, functioning with maximum efficiency. Human in this modern time is leading towards rapidly developing disorderly life, in an unsuitable environment; busy in activities of daily living with stress, constantly neglecting healthy diet or skipping proper time table of meals or choosing fast foods and carbonated juices. In addition, each common symptom of a disease causes relying on inefficient and often expensive medications. It is important not only how much we survive but also how we live! Because, longevity also deals with diseases and debility is not the most desirable thing for a man reaching towards old age.

In order to get through comfortably during the cold season and states of stress, the body needs to be strengthened by the natural defense system. If we have a weak immune system, our body becomes more vulnerable and weak in front of any harmful external factor. In addition to innate immunity and immunity that develops throughout life, as a result of interaction of the body with the environment, the body remains under constant risk of disease causing factors, hence, the role of the immune system is to protect the body and to maintain a state of optimal health.

From medical point of view, the term “immunity” involves a complex network of defense composed of lymphoid organs (thymus, bone marrow, spleen, lymph nodes, appendix and tonsils) cells and molecules. The role of the immune system is to destroy any “foreign body” (viruses, bacteria, germs, some tumor cells, dead cells or cells with defects) that could affect the proper functioning of the body. A person with weak immunity may suffer from frequent health troubles such as colds, urinary tract infections, skin rashes, wounds, that get infected easily and take a lot of time to recover. A properly functioning immune system protects the body against disease, slows down premature aging and increases body’s energy by reducing stress and recovery time after illness.

Strengthening the immune system is one of the most effective measures available to anyone against diseases. A strong immune system keeps away body from serious illness. Asperities of the cold days of winter season affect with different ways, the body exposed to unhealthy conditions created due to the evolution of different climatic factors, or in a direct manner, the body deals with respiratory diseases.

More than 400 types of viruses can affect the respiratory system, especially in winter season. They cause viral respiratory problems, popularly known as common cold. Once viruses invade respiratory tract, they can multiply within 8-12 hours. The cold does not cause respiratory infections, but differences in temperature destabilize the local metabolism of respiratory system, leading the body less auto-protected against infectious factors. Most affected categories are children and elderly persons. The favoring conditions of respiratory diseases are the entrance of the people to a crowded place or community, carrying the infections and high level temperature variations which are common in winter season. In these circumstances, children less than 5 years of age suffer from cold and infections 3-4 times per season of winter, whereas the elderly people get infected once to twice per season of winter.

A balanced immune system reacts to cold, including fever. Fever should not be considered necessarily a sign of worsening health (unless it exceeds 38 °C, extending more than a few days and is accompanied by a visible alteration of general health state of the body). It is not necessary that everyone has immune problems or having a weak immune system in case if he/she gets a recurrent cold! Hence, both the frequency and severity of episodes of illness should be taken into account. When colds are very frequent, it can be affirmed about an existing problem. If cold episodes persist longer than a week or the respiratory complications appear which require hospitalization, then there may be a considerable health problem. Likewise, if you do not respond to the remedies for the treatment of cold and flu, then it extends frequently and due to this overall health is affected. Often, in children, the respiratory diseases occur also due to allergy. An environmental allergy produces chronic inflammation of respiratory tract mucosa, which becomes sensible and reacts violently to any virus. Thus, any new infection in persons with allergies may worsen respiratory tract health, leading to cold.

One thing is necessary to be mentioned for those who have polyps. Polyps are nasal or sinus inflammations due to reoccurance of viral infections and it is important to know whether they manifest due to an allergic etiology or not. In the situations described earlier, it does not mean about a low immunity, but there are situations when colds occur frequently due to a sensible immune system and an example of this when the children are taken in the crowded place (with many other contagious diseases) before the age of 3 years, the age, when the immune system is not sufficiently developed to cope with external harmful factors.

With the arrival of the cold season, the human body has to resist with temperature variations and harmful factors mainly microbes and viruses that cause respiratory infections. For this on time measures should be adopted preferably to maintain immunity and to strengthen resistance against harmful external factors. Regarding this, there are a number of plants and herbal preparations that are very helpful against disease causing pathogens. These plants and preparations can be used in the form of teas, tinctures, tablets, syrups. Also, adopting a healthier lifestyle with healthy eating, daily exercise, sufficient rest and avoiding stress related factors in general, contribute to maintain a healthy body.

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Asthma is one of the most common ailments in today’s time. It is an inflammatory disorder of the respiratory airways that is manifested by four main symptoms: shortness of breath, coughing, wheezing and chest congestion. These manifestations occur together or separately due to smooth muscle contraction of respiratory airway walls (leading to constriction in their diameter) and their mucous membrane inflammation.

It is estimated that 5 out of 100 people suffer from asthma and this number is increasing nowadays. The evolution is varied based on people characteristics: gender, age, ethnicity, nationality, social standards and living environment. Asthma is the most common chronic disease among children with an allergic etiology, while in adults, it manifests as non-allergenic. In some cases, asthma is manifested only by coughing and in this case its diagnosis is more difficult to be established.

Causes of asthma are diverse and involve interaction between genetic predispositions (Children have at least 25% chances to have asthma in case their parents have this disorder) and environmental factors. The most common environmental factors that trigger asthma are allergens such as dust mites, pollen, fungus, animal hair, cockroaches and their wastes, airborne irritants like cigarette smoke, barbeque fume or smoke arising from fire, household sprays, paints, gasoline, perfumes and scented soaps, respiratory infections (colds, flu, throat irritation, sinus infections), exercises or activities that require a lot of physical effort as well as weather, especially dry and cold air and sudden changes in temperature.

Asthma attack lasts from a few seconds to several hours. Most often, asthma is manifested in the form of recurrent and persisting “cold” or “pneumonia” and often accompanied by difficulty in breathing with wheezing sound. Usually, antibiotics are administered repeatedly, but they cannot solve the problem. Once settled in the body, asthmatic disease has a chronic evolution and always persists in the bronchi, but person feels it only during attacks. Asthma is an episodic disease in which acute exacerbations are intercalated with symptom free intervals and between them, the person may feel better and can consider himself in healthy condition. The evolution of asthma can be slowed down and thus it can be kept under control. Persons who keep asthma under control can enjoy more pleasant life and afford to do the things as they want. An uncontrolled asthma can lead to problems like waking up problems during midnight with the above mentioned symptoms like difficulty in breathing or swallowing and craving for more and more amount of asthma crisis relieving medications.

Preventive measures are important for asthma and out of them are: avoiding smoking, avoiding overcrowded places where respiratory disease viruses exist on epidemic levels, atmospheric pollutants and allergens considered as triggers for asthma. In houses where a person is diagnosed with asthma, it is better not to keep animals with fur (hair), moreover, birds, carpets, curtains and flower pots should not be placed, similarly, using cosmetics with strong perfume and cigarette smoking inside the house should be avoided.

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Bronchitis is an inflammation of the respiratory airways which carry air to the lungs, more exactly, the bronchial passages that connect the trachea and lungs. Bronchitis is manifested by cough and sputum and is associated with an inflammation of cells lining the respiratory tract, causing edema (increased volume) of bronchial wall and increasing production of mucus (sputum). Edema and sputum cause coughing and in this way making breathing difficult. Bronchitis often appears during autumn and winter seasons, which are characterized by low temperatures and high humidity. Also, smoking, air pollution and the presence of disease like bronchial cystic fibrosis also play an important role in evolution of this disease. In 90 percent of cases, Bronchitis is caused by viral attack and occurs after an episode of cold or flu. A persistent cough is the first sign of acute bronchitis, usually subsides within two to three weeks after the onset of disease.

Bronchitis can be acute when a person has a recent onset and a short duration or may be chronic and recurrent, in which the episodes of cough and sputum exist for at least 3 times per year for 2 consecutive months.

Acute bronchitis is characterized by a congesting sensation felt in the chest, followed by coughing. As sputum accumulates in the lungs, the patient begins to expectorate yellow or green colored phlegm. The associated symptoms are mild fever, shortness of breath, pain in the lungs and wheezing during respiration. Acute bronchitis spreads by infected droplets (containing virus) coming from the respiratory tract through sneezing or coughing that come in contact with air, which are then inhaled or come in contact with other persons. Majority of people with acute bronchitis do not require treatment. In this case, there are some useful tips are applied as preventive measures for diminishing bronchitis which are:
-a balanced diet;
-avoiding exposure to cold and very low temperatures;
-avoid the company of smokers and areas with excessive smoke;
-proper hydration to liquefy mucus and facilitate cough;
-the another measure is breathing in a warm and moist atmosphere because warm moist air facilitates elimination of mucus by coughing.

On the other hand, chronic bronchitis mainly affects smokers and is manifested by chest pain, difficulty in breathing, fever, persistent productive cough with yellow, green or transparent sputum. Chronic bronchitis is considered a form of obstructive lung disease characterized by the fact that bronchi are inflamed and produce an excessive amount of mucus removed by coughing followed by airway irritation. Chronic bronchitis is a condition in which the characteristic symptom is the constant cough reflex with expectoration, which occurs almost daily, for at least 3 months, till 2 consecutive years.

Mucopurulent chronic bronchitis is characterized by persistent or recurrent purulent sputum in the absence of localized supportive process. As it can or cannot be associated with the degree of obstruction as assessed by forced vital capacity, and can be distinguished with a new subclass, chronic obstructive bronchitis. There is a “subset” of patients who have chronic bronchitis and obstruction, combining intense dyspnea and wheezing upon inhalation of irritants or during acute respiratory infections. These patients are defined as having asthma or chronic bronchitis or a form of chronic asthma. As the treatment of airway obstruction and inflammation with bronchodilator is considerable, but not complete, and because there appears airway hyper-reactivity to nonspecific stimuli, which can create confusion among this group of patients and those with asthma, which can be associated with chronic obstruction of respiratory tract. Chronic bronchitis, especially in obstructive forms and asthmatic form leads to develop pulmonary emphysema.

People suffering from chronic bronchitis should avoid irritants factors such as smoke, dust and pollution. Also, another cause of chronic bronchitis is the frequent inhalation of toxic substances that enter the respiratory system (in case of miners, factory workers etc.). The disease prevalence is three times higher among men, and the overall risk of the disease increases with the age.

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The pharynx is funnel shaped fibro-muscular tube, its upper, wider end lying under the skull and its lower, narrow end becoming continuous with the esophagus, at the same time the place of intersection of respiratory and digestive track. Pharyngitis is one of the most common diseases of the oral-nasal and pharyngeal zone and represents inflammation or infection of pharyngeal mucosa. The etiology is usually infectious, with 40-60% of cases of viral origin and about 40% of cases of bacterial origin (usually Streptococcus pyogenes). Other causes include allergies, trauma and toxins.

Most cases of pharyngitis occur during the cold months of the year (sometimes even in early spring). Pharyngitis is manifested by severe pain in the throat, especially when swallowing, swollen tonsils (in case of pharyngo-tonsillitis), fever, headache, muscle or abdominal pain, vomiting etc.. Pharyngitis may evolve as acute or chronic. Acute pharyngitis is an acute inflammation of the oropharynx (the middle part of the pharynx), also called angina, caused especially due to occasional viral and bacterial infections. In case of acute pharyngitis of bacterial origin, the main micro-organisms include streptococcus, staphylococcus or a bacterium of the genus Haemophilus. The pain is intensified upon swallowing and may be accompanied by itching and sore throat. Other manifestations that accompany during acute pharyngitis are fatigue, malaise, fever.

The general term for chronic pharyngitis designates a group of inflammatory reactions in the throat, which occur through the action of environmental factors such as cigarette smoke, alcohol or low level of humidity. Chronic pharyngitis may also occur due to specific microbes (tuberculosis, syphilis). The most common chronic pharyngitis caused by streptococci, staphylococci, pneumococci, which by repeated pharynx infections, lead to chronic disease.

Breathing with open-mouth, alcohol, tobacco and spices are common factors. Patients with chronic pharyngitis have discomfort upon swallowing, pinching sensation and warmth in the pharynx with dryness. Viscous mucus that forms in the throat forces it to be expelled, especially in the morning upon awakening. Often, the person also has tiring cough. In the case of chronic inflammation of the pharynx, initial trigger factors are to be removed, then therapeutic interventions are applied including inhalations and raising the level of humidity. While coughing, sneezing, through droplets of saliva, bacteria mainly streptococcus can be are transmitted from person to person. Within a short period of time, bacteria can be placed on the frame or contaminated door handle or other surfaces. If the infected object is achieved, and, as the person touches his/her eyes, nose, mouth, and by this way, may become contaminated with bacteria. Also, the bacteria can spread also through infected food.

In order to prevent pharyngitis, avoid contact with people who have streptococcal infection. Also, frequent hand washing is recommended. Resistance of the body against these bacteria can be increased by a healthy diet, sufficient rest, enhanced care for hygiene and regular physical exercise. Also, avoiding stress increases the body’s ability to fight the disease. It is also recommend to quit smoking and avoiding exposure to cigarette smoke because the smoke irritates the mucous, making it more vulnerable to infection. Humidity is an important factor in terms of prevention, and treatment of pharyngitis. A healthy lifestyle with a balanced diet and sufficient exercise is an indirect measure that increases the body’s ability to cope with infection.

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The larynx is an upper part of the trachea, which consists of cartilage, muscles and mucous membranes. The laryngeal structure also includes the vocal cords which are responsible for sound production. Laryngitis is a condition that usually occurs in cold season and is accompanied by a severe cold or flu. Laryngitis is caused by inflammation, irritation or excessive use of the vocal cords belonging the larynx. Most of the times, laryngitis occurs after a respiratory infection, but can also be a result of sinusitis, gastro-esophageal reflux disease or allergies.

Exposure to dust, cigarette smoke and other harmful substances may cause laryngeal irritation. Last but not least, excessive talking can cause inflammation of the vocal cords (hoarseness) and leads to the onset of laryngitis. Laryngitis can also be associated with bronchitis or any inflammation/ infection of the superior and inferior respiratory tract.

The voice disorder, also called dysphonia can be determined also by laryngitis among others. Usually, laryngitis is an acute (lasting a few days) disease, but can become chronic if it lasts longer than 3 weeks. If laryngitis is not treated properly and in time, it can persist for a long time and may cause suffocation associated with shortness of breath and cough accompanied by appearance of “whooping” symptoms especially during night. Moreover, laryngitis can become chronic and may provoke changes in the laryngeal mucosa which may cause repeated ingravescence. Chronic form of the disease occurs most often in adults and is more common in males.

The symptoms of laryngitis may include throat pain laryngitis, hoarseness of voice, sensation of “throat irritation” etc.. From the evolution point of view, laryngitis has two phases: acute and chronic. The onset of acute laryngitis manifests with hoarseness of voice, leading to a temporary loss of voice and in some cases, it is also associated with breathing difficulties. Person suffering from laryngitis may feel constant throat pain and may have the feeling to cough. If laryngitis is accompanied by fever and overall body pain, then the cause is viral or bacterial origin. Chronic laryngitis is manifested by severe throat pain, temporary change or temporary loss of voice, cough, expectoration, throat dryness etc..

In all cases, rest period from voice point of view is essential for curing laryngitis. As forcing the vocal cords during laryngitis is absolutely restricted, because, it may lead to lesions that will be felt after treating the condition. Besides vocal rest, treatment may consist of natural remedies, depending upon the cause, which has produced laryngitis. Warm dabbing, inhalations with balsamic substances and essential oils of eucalyptus, thyme, peppermint, fennel, infusions of poplar buds and bark of the willow may add a real help for treating laryngitis. Using propolis and chewing honeycomb can also have beneficial effects on the larynx.

A special importance should be paid to nutrition in this disease condition. For that, it is recommended to take a light diet which contains soups, purées and fruit and vegetable juices. The prepared food must have a suitable temperature as too hot or cold foods may aggravate the inflammation of larynx. Acidic foods or spices, alcohol, carbonated beverages or those containing caffeine are not recommended because they may dehydrate the body. Fluid intake, avoiding tobacco and passive smoking reduce the risk of infection and prevent laryngitis.

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