Infectious Lung Diseases
Learn about respiratory diseases, how they spread, treatment and prevention.
Most infectious respiratory diseases are spread from person to person, which means that if one person in a school, workplace, home or community gets an infectious disease, they can spread it to others. The spread may occur through the air or from direct or indirect contact with an infected individual. Although being outside can reduce your risk of infection, transmission of respiratory viruses outside is possible.
Preventing Infectious Respiratory Diseases
- Get Vaccinated. Talk to your doctor to see if you are up to date on your vaccinations. It’s always better to prevent a disease rather than treat it after it occurs.
- Wash Your Hands. Hand-washing with soap is always preferred, but hand sanitizer works in a pinch. Cover those coughs and sneezes to prevent spreading disease.
- Cover Coughs and Sneezes. When you cover your cough or sneeze cover your mouth with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the garbage. If you don’t have tissue, sneeze or cough into your upper sleeve or elbow – but not your hands. Afterward, washing your hands.
- Stay Home While Sick. Staying home, and away from other members of the household as much as possible, will help stop the infection from spreading to others.
- Keep Your Home Clean. Prioritize cleaning for health, not appearance. Disinfecting doorknobs and other high touch surfaces, replacing used hand towels and keeping physical distance from sick individuals will help stop the spread of disease.
- Additional Protective Measures. In some instances, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, additional preventive measures, such as wearing face masks and social distancing outside the home are required to help stop widespread community transmission of disease.
Prevent Infectious Respiratory Diseases by Ventilating Your Home
Treating Infectious Respiratory Diseases
While each disease has slightly different symptoms, diagnostic tests, and treatment options, these overarching concepts provide a broad overlay for treatment.
Contact Your Healthcare Provider
- Testing. Many infectious respiratory diseases have similar symptoms such as runny nose, fatigue, and a cough, but may require different treatments. To test for COVID-19, you can find a no-cost testing site near you or order free at-home tests to keep on hand. Many testing locations offer testing for multiple infectious respiratory diseases, most commonly COVID-19 and influenza. Talk to your healthcare provider about testing if you have symptoms.
- Monitoring Symptoms. If the infected individual is young, old or lives with a chronic disease, your primary healthcare provider will want to monitor your recovery. You should also call whenever there is a new or persisting symptom that worries you. You can determine with your healthcare provider when they would like to be alerted to changes in your illness and which symptoms require prompt notification.
- Treatment Options:
- Supportive Care. This means treating the symptoms while the disease runs its course. An example is to recommend bed rest when feeling tired. Other suggestions include staying hydrated, monitoring symptom and temperature changes, taking recommended over-the-counter medications and reporting new or lingering.
- Antiviral Medications. For diseases such as influenza and COVID-19, antiviral medication may be recommended by your healthcare provider. Antivirals have been shown to reduce symptoms if started within a day or two of getting sick so it is important to speak to your healthcare provider right away if you are at high-risk for more severe illness, especially those who might require hospitalization.
Am I at High-Risk?
Depending on the disease, you may be at greater risk for complications if you are an infant, child, adult 50 years of age or older, or have a chronic medical condition such as COPD, asthma, pulmonary fibrosis or lung cancer.
Smoking tobacco also raises your risk of getting colds and lung infections like flu or pneumonia and having more severe symptoms.
More Infectious Respiratory Disease Resources
- Call the Lung HelpLine at 1-800-LUNGUSA to get quick answers to your lung health questions.
- Scan our EACH Breath blog for stories about infectious diseases.
- Use our Lung Disease Lookup lto find more information about prevention, symptoms, testing, and treatment of specific lung disease.
- Learn more about How Lungs Work including information about lung capacity and aging.
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