What is a Respiratory Tract Infection (RTI)?

What is a respiratory tract infection?

A respiratory tract infection (RTI) is an infection that affects the respiratory tract, which is a general term used to describe the parts of our body involved in breathing, including the mouth, nose, sinuses, throat, larynx (voice box), trachea (windpipe), airways and lungs. 1

RTIs are very common, especially during the winter months in temperate climates. They are also the most common reason we take our children to the doctor2.They usually clear up on their own but can make us or our little one feel poorly and often get in the way of our daily lives. Although RTIs are very common, it doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be taken seriously as they can impair our quality of life, infect others and may evolve towards more serious forms especially in high-risk population. Suffering from a RTI may require seeing a healthcare practitioner.

When to see a doctor ?

What should i do in case of RTI symptoms?

What are the different RTI classes?

RTIs are usually described as upper respiratory tract infections or lower respiratory tract infections.

Upper respiratory tract infection (URTIs)

Upper respiratory tract infections (URTIs) affect our nose, sinuses, and throat and include common cold, pharyngitis/sore throat, sinusitis, tonsillitis, and laryngitis. Children tend to get more URTIs than adults because they have not yet built up immunity.

Lower respiratory tract infections (LRTIs)

(LRTIs) affect our airways and lungs and include chest infections, acute bronchitis, pneumonia and influenza (flu). Lower RTIs are generally longer lasting and more serious than upper RTIs.3

What are the different types of RTIs and their main associated symptoms?

Do not hesitate to contact your doctor if you want to learn more about the RTI or if you believe you may have one.


  1. Health Service Executive. Respiratory tract infection. Available at: https://www.hse.ie/eng/health/az/r/respiratory-tract-infection/causes-of-respiratory-tract-infections.html. Accessed October 14, 2020.
  2. Das, S. Sherry, D. and Tang Y. Laboratory Diagnosis of Respiratory Tract Infections in Children – the State of the Art. Front. Microbiol, 2018; 9: 2478.
  3. National Health Service. Respiratory tract infections. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/respiratory-tract-infection. Accessed October 14, 2020.