RTI’s – Respiratory Tract Infections

What Are RTI’s

Respiratory tract infections (RTIs) are infections of parts of the body involved in breathing, such as the sinuses, throat, airways or lungs. Most RTIs get better without treatment, but sometimes you may need to see a GP.

How to avoid getting an RTI

If you keep getting RTIs or you’re at a high risk of getting one (for example, because you’re over the age of 65 or have a serious long -term health condition’ you should:

  • ask a GP about the annual flu vaccination – find out if you’re eligible for the free flu vaccine
  • ask if you should have the pneumococcal vaccine – this helps prevent pneumonia
  • stop smoking if you smoke
  • drink less alcohol

Signs and Symptoms

  • a cough – you may bring up mucus (phlegm)
  • sneezing
  • a stuffy or runny nose
  • a sore throat
  • headaches
  • muscle aches
  • breathlessness, tight chest or wheezing
  • a high temperature
  • feeling generally unwell

Different kinds of treatments

Treatment from a GP:

Treatment will depend on the cause of your RT:

  • a virus (like colds) – this usually clears up by itself after a few weeks and antibiotics will no help
  • bacteria (like pneumonia) – a GP may prescribe antibiotics (make sure you complete the whole course as advised by a GP, even if you start to feel better)
    Sometimes a sample of your mucus may need to be tested to see what’s causing your RTI.

How a Pharmacist can help:

A pharmacist can suggest treatments to help relieve your symptoms, such as decongestants and nasal sprays.

You can also buy cough medicines and throat lozenges, although there’s little evidence to show they help.

Some treatments contain paracetamol and ibuprofen.

If you’re taking these medicines separately, be careful not to take more than the recommended dose.

Certain treatments are not suitable for children, babies and pregnant women. Your pharmacist can advise you about the best treatment for you or your child.

How you can help yourself:

  • get plenty of rest
  • drink lots of water to loosen any mucus and make it easier to cough up drink a hot lemon and honey drink to help soothe a cough (not suitable for babies under 1 year old)
  • gargle with warm salty water if you have a sore throat (children should not try this)
  • raise your head up while sleeping using extra pillows to make breathing easier and clear your chest of mucus
  • use painkillers to bring down a fever and help ease a sore throat, headaches and muscle pain try to stay at home and avoid contact with other people if you have a high temperature or you do not feel well enough to do your normal activities