The general ways of preventing respiratory infections are referred to as respiratory hygiene. These are non-pharmacological means (not involving the use of medications) that can protect one from developing respiratory infections.
Respiratory infections are infections that affect the airway and/or the lungs. They are broadly classified into respiratory tract infections (upper and lower respiratory tract infections) and pneumonia (those affecting the lung parenchyma).
Just like for other types of infections, preventing respiratory infection follows the axiom that prevention is better than cure. This holds true for most medical and surgical conditions, as this has been described as primary prevention in some medical textbooks, and treatment is referred to as secondary prevention.
This post will show you basic ways to prevent respiratory infections. These same measures are recommended by the World Health Organization for the prevention and control of respiratory infections.
These interventions basically help prevent the entry of infective agents into the respiratory tract, thus preventing infection of any part of the tract by these organisms. Remember that there cannot be an infection if there is no prior inoculation with infective agents.
1. Regular hand washing
Hand and respiratory hygiene have a close association with the transmission of respiratory infection. We commonly use our hands to touch our face, eyes, nose, and mouth, but we also use those same hands to touch all manner of objects, many of which can be contaminated.
Hand hygiene requires one to wash hands after touching a potentially dirty object, preferably with soap. Such objects are referred to as formites and they can be a nidus on which infective agents and droplets from an infected person may have been deposited.
2. Avoid close contact with a coughing or sneezing person
Close contact is defined here as less than 1 meter from someone who is actively coughing. When someone coughs, air droplets are also released with the gush of air. These droplets can carry infectious agents like bacteria and viruses, which can be inhaled by another person to transmit the infection.
By staying away from someone who is actively coughing, you can be assured that you will not contract a respiratory infection from them.
3. Use a facemask often
As simple as using a facemask can prevent several respiratory infections, including dust-related conditions affecting the respiratory tract. A face mask can act as an effective barrier to many disease-causing microbes, with the exception of smaller particles and some viruses.
Together with other interventions, using a face mask is another basic way to prevent respiratory infections and diseases. Face masks not only protect you but also protect other people in the event that you are coughing.
4. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth regularly
Developing the habit of not touching your eyes, nose and mouth regularly will reduce how often you come down with common respiratory infections, including the common flu. Touching oral, nasal, or eye secretions without washing your hands eventually can soil your hands and make them a good site for microbes to deposit.
5. Clean/disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces regularly
Maintaining a good home and personal hygiene can help prevent the transmission of respiratory infections. Cultivate the habit of cleaning and/or disinfecting regularly touched objects or surfaces, and also wash your hands before and after touching new surfaces.
5. Drink water regularly
Drinking water is by far one of the most basic things to do for optimal functioning of the body. It can also help prevent several diseases and infections like respiratory infections.
How water does this is simple and straightforward. Drinking adequate water daily helps to maintain your blood volume to maintain perfusion to all organs and tissues. But that’s not all.
Drinking water helps prevent dehydration and keeps the mucous membranes of the nose and airway moist and lubricated. A moist mucosa offers more protection against infection and inoculation compared to a dryer one. Antibodies can be secreted into the moist layer of the mucous membranes to enhance protection against the introduction of infective organisms.
6. Know your risk status
There are people who are at a higher risk of contracting a respiratory condition. These include health workers, immunocompromised (infants, elderly, diabetics, cancer patients receiving chemotherapy, and RVD patients.
These categories of individuals require extra protection and due diligence in adhering to safety precautions. For example, if you are a healthcare worker, you should never ignore to wear your personal protective equipment like a face mask whenever you are having a face-off interaction with your patients.
7. Eat and rest well
Adequate nutrition and rest are important for a functional immune system. Thus, getting adequate rest and eating a diet rich in all essential nutrients is an important way to maintain your immune system to be able to fight off infections when you encounter them.
Include fruits and vegetables in your diet, and avoid junk foods or too much alcohol. Vitamin and mineral supplements are also useful in augmenting dietary intake of these nutrients.
8. Avoid smoking
Smoking does not do any good to the respiratory system. The smoke particles can irritate the nose and airway to compromise the mucosa integrity.
Smoking can interfere with normal mucosa immunity and the function of the antibodies. It can also destroy the cilia on the epithelia of the airway, which are responsible for propelling invading particles out of the airway. Lastly, the smoke particles can get deposited in the lungs to cause secondary parenchyma lung diseases and cancers.
Measures to Protect Other People From Respiratory Infections
It is important to note that it is also very necessary to protect other people from contracting a respiratory infection when you are sick. It is a wicked act when you do not take the right measures to protect other people when you have a respiratory infection.
If you have any of the symptoms above, cough, fever, sore throat, or difficulty in breathing, something could be wrong with any part of your airway that might need medical attention.
1. Stay home when you are very sick, if possible
2. Wear a face mask to prevent spreading droplets to other people nearby
3. Adopt the universal cough etiquette (turn your face when about to cough or sneeze, cough into your elbows while turning your face towards the side, use a napkin or tissue and discard into the thrash, wash your hands after coughing, and regularly use the hand sanitiser.
Respiratory infections involve the introduction of microbes into the airway or respiratory tract. Thus, preventing this interaction is the number #1 way to prevent respiratory infections. The above tips are general components of respiratory hygiene and other interventions for preventing respiratory infections.
I am a medical doctor, a seasoned writer and passionate blogger. Thanks to many years of trials, failure, and near successes. I am the founder of Knowseeker and our content are geared towards enlightening and making you a better and happier audience.