Discover STEM - Petrosains, The Discovery Centre

How Respiratory Illness Harm The Body

As you might know, a person infected with COVID-19 will typically have the following symptoms:

But, do you know how WORSE can the virus harm the body?

Let’s explore this sharing to learn more!

So, one of the serious illnesses of COVID-19 is breathing difficulty due to respiratory infections.

Did you know that..

  • ..respiratory infections are among the most common illnesses that affect humans?

  • ..these illnesses can range from mild colds to serious lower respiratory tract infections such as bronchitis and pneumonia?

  • ..many respiratory infections are cause by conronaviruses, not just by the novel strain that we called ‘COVID-19’?

So, how do respiratory infections harm the body?

A brief visual of upper and lower airways, or respiratory tracts.

Upper Airway

The upper airway not only provides a passage for air to be breathed in and out of the lungs, but it also heats, humidifies and filters the air and is involved in cough, swallowing and speech.

Lower Airway

The lower airway which consists of trachea and lungs, pulls in air from the upper airway to absorb the oxygen and release carbon dioxide in exchange. Infections in this area will really trouble the breathing.

The infections in ‘Upper Respiratory Tract’


Sore throat, dry cough, shortness of breath, fever, headache, and fatigue.


Options generally include symptom management because antibiotics don’t work against viruses. The doctor might suggest drinking plenty of fluids, resting, and taking over-the-counter medication to lower fevers and manage body aches, as well as decongestants for sinus trouble.


Patients with upper respiratory infections typically feel sick for a week or two.

The infections in ‘Lower Respiratory Tract’


Severe cough that produces mucus, shortness of breath, tightness in the chest, and wheezing upon exhalation. In severe cases, the lips may appear blue due to low oxygen levels.


Options may include breathing treatments such as an inhaler, nebulizer or medication, as well as antibiotics if bacteria and a virus are involved. A humidifier or hot shower may ease chest discomfort and help you breathe.


Mild to moderate lower respiratory infections typically resolve within two weeks.

How and when should you seek medical help for a respiratory infection?

If you think you are exposed to COVID-19 and developed a fever, cough, sore throat, or body aches, stay home and avoid other people.

If you’re worried, call you family doctor or emergency room and ask for guidance. You shouldn’t just show up so that you don’t risk yourself or others futhermore.

The following symptoms should prompt you to seek emergency treatment:

Difficult breathing, persistent pain or pressure in the chest, any other symptom that is severe or concerning.

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