Breathing tell them apart? Well, the flu

Breathing is not always easy. Respiratory conditions can make it hard to catch your breath. Learn about all types of respiratory conditions, including the common cold, flu, pneumonia, asthma, cystic fibrosis, emphysema and chronic bronchitis.

Breathing

Breathing. It’s pretty important. So important that your body decides to do it about 20,000 times a day. The whole point of breathing is to bring oxygen into the body and rid the body of carbon dioxide.

You don’t have to worry too much about breathing as long as your respiratory system, which is the body system that includes your nose, airways and lungs, is healthy. Of course, when it’s not, you can feel sniffly, tired or worse.

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Cold ; Flu

You can help your body stay healthy by not smoking, doing your best to avoid germs, eating a healthy diet and exercising, but some respiratory conditions are hard to prevent. Probably the one you are most familiar with is the common cold.It’s hard to avoid catching a cold because there are more than 200 different viruses that can cause it.

The common cold is actually an infection of the upper respiratory tract, meaning it mainly affects your nose and throat, leaving you with a runny nose, sore throat and cough. A cold can act a lot like the flu, which is a viral infection that affects the nose, throat and lungs. So how do you tell them apart? Well, the flu is fierce and comes with some additional symptoms that are felt all over your body. You can suspect the flu if your muscles ache, you have a headache, and you feel really wiped out, but the key difference between a cold and the flu is that the flu will come with a fever of 101 degrees Fahrenheit or higher.

Pneumonia

It is important to take care of yourself if you have the flu, because one of the complications of flu is pneumonia.

Pneumonia is an infection of your lungs. It might help you to remember what pneumonia is if you recall that the prefix ‘pneumo-‘ is the Greek word for lung and the suffix ‘-ia’ is often used to name a disease; so pneumonia is literally a lung disease. When you have pneumonia the tiny air sacs of your lungs called the alveoli become inflamed and fill with fluid. You need to get this fluid out in order to breathe, so your body makes you cough. This coughing brings up the thick, sticky fluid that – along with the fever, chills and tiredness – makes pneumonia a very unpleasant condition that needs to be monitored by your doctor.

Asthma

One type of respiratory condition that can affect adults, but is often talked about in kids is asthma. Asthma is a chronic condition, which means it happens more than once. This respiratory condition causes the airways of the lungs to narrow and swell, making it hard to breathe. If you or someone you know has an asthma attack, you might notice that their breathing has a wheezing sound.

This happens as the air tries to squeeze through the narrowed airway. A person with asthma might find that certain things trigger their symptoms, such as being near cigarette smoke or even animals if they have an allergy. So steering clear of triggers is often a good way to prevent asthma symptoms, but if a flare-up does occur, symptoms can often be controlled by using a small handheld inhaler that gives a quick burst of medication that makes breathing easier.

Cystic Fibrosis

Another respiratory condition that is seen in kids is cystic fibrosis (CF).

This is an inherited disease that affects the lungs. Being inherited means that you can’t catch it, like a cold, instead it’s passed down to you through a faulty gene from your parents. With cystic fibrosis, your airways get clogged with very thick and sticky mucus. This makes it hard to breathe and leaves you vulnerable to lung infections. It might be easier to remember what cystic fibrosis is if you think of the CF as standing for ‘clog and family’ – cystic fibrosis causes airways to clog, and it is passed down through a family.

Emphysema and Chronic Bronchitis

Now before we leave our discussion on respiratory problems we need to talk about a big problem for your lungs and that is cigarette smoke. Smoking cigarettes for a long time can cause emphysema, which is a condition that damages the air sacs making it hard to breathe air out of the lungs. The airs sacs, or alveoli, in a normal pair of lungs look like clusters of grapes. In lungs damaged by emphysema, those air sacs rupture creating one large floppy air space that traps inhaled air in the lungs making it hard to exhale the stale air. So, with emphysema, you can’t empty your lungs.

Chronic bronchitis is also related to smoking. In fact, smokers can have chronic bronchitis and emphysema at the same time. With chronic bronchitis, there is a constant irritation and inflammation of the airways. You can remember this term by recalling that ‘bronchi’ is the name of the affected airway and ‘-itis’ is a common suffix used in science to mean inflammation.

So with chronic bronchitis, the bronchi are constantly inflamed. This irritation makes the body produce a lot of thick mucus that makes it hard to breathe. Also, that mucus has to come out, so people with chronic bronchitis develop a chronic cough.

Lesson Summary

Let’s review. Most of us have fallen victim to the common cold, which is an infection of the upper respiratory tract, but not all of us have had the flu, which is a viral infection that affects the nose, throat and lungs. Colds and flu share some of the same symptoms, but the flu is fierce and comes with a fever of 101 degrees Fahrenheit or higher.

If you’re not careful your bout with the flu, could turn into pneumonia, which is an infection of your lungs. When you have pneumonia, the tiny air sacs of your lungs, called the alveoli, become inflamed and fill with fluid that you cough up.Someone you know might have asthma, which causes the airways of the lungs to narrow and swell making it hard to breathe. This causes a wheezing sound with breathing as air tries to squeeze through the narrowed airway.Cystic fibrosis (CF) is an inherited disease that affects the lungs.

Because CF causes airways to clog with mucus, and it is passed down through a family, you might want to think of CF as standing for ‘clog and family.’Smoking cigarettes for a long time can cause emphysema, which is a condition that damages the air sacs making it hard to breathe air out of the lungs; with emphysema you can’t empty your lungs.Chronic bronchitis is also related to smoking. With this condition there is a constant irritation and inflammation of the airways. This irritation creates mucus and a chronic cough.

Learning Outcomes

After you finish watching the video, you should be able to:

  • Describe how colds and the flu affect respiratory function
  • Discuss pneumonia’s impact on breathing
  • Explain asthma and how it’s treated
  • Recall what cystic fibrosis is
  • Consider how emphysema and chronic bronchitis impact the lungs
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