Sepsis and Respiratory Infections

A respiratory infection is any infection that affects your respiratory tract. It can be a common infection, like a cold or viral pneumonia, or a rarer respiratory infection, like bacterial nontuberculous mycobacteria (NTM) or fungal histoplasmosis.

The infections are divided into whether they affect the upper respiratory tract and lower respiratory tract.  The upper respiratory tract includes the:

  • Nose
  • Mouth
  • Sinuses
  • Pharynx (upper section of the throat)
  • Larynx (voice box)

 

The lower respiratory tract includes the:

  • Trachea (windpipe)
  • Bronchial tubes
  • Lungs

As with any infection, respiratory infections can cause sepsis. Sepsis, which was often called blood poisoning, is the body’s life-threatening response to infection. Like strokes or heart attacks, sepsis is a medical emergency that requires rapid diagnosis and treatment.

Suggested Citation:
Sepsis Alliance. Sepsis and Respiratory Infections. 2023. https://www.sepsis.org/sepsisand/respiratory-infections/ 

Updated October 25, 2023.

 

More About Respiratory Infections

Symptoms

Symptoms of a respiratory infection depend on where in the respiratory tract the infection is. For example, if you have a sinus infection, you may have some of these:

  • Bad breath
  • Cough
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Pain and pressure in the sinuses, behind your eyes, or even a toothache
  • Stuffy nose
  • Post-nasal drip

But if you have pneumonia, you could experience:

  • Cough
  • Fever
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sharp or stabbing chest pain when you take a deep breath
  • Rapid, shallow breathing

 

 

Treatment

Treatment of respiratory infections depends on the cause. Bacterial and fungal infections may be treated with appropriate antibiotics and antifungals. Only a few viral infections have an effective antiviral treatment. Usually, treatment for viruses focuses on the symptoms, trying to make you feel more comfortable as your body fights the infection.

Related Conditions

Sandra Bouchalkia

I am a grieving mum who lost her princess because of sepsis and want to raise awareness about this silent killer unknown to most people. My starting point will be my daughter’s story. Sandra, my beautiful baby, was a healthy and happy girl who never had health problems or a history of any serious illness. She was almost 4 years old when sepsis hit her body and took her life. It started with a fever and normal flu, nothing to worry about. (Sepsis and Influenza) After one day, the infection invaded her whole body and she passed away because of ... Read Full Story

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Tessa Marie Clagg

The morning of February 3, 2020, I woke up to a message from my daughter asking me to bring her medicine and an inhaler. That was a Monday. Wednesday she went to the hospital, they put in an IV. She freaked out saying she couldn’t breath and they were trying to kill her and she left against medical advice. However, they was able to confirm she had influenza b. (Sepsis and Influenza) I arrived at her home right after she did. She was very pale and grey. She begged me not to leave. Of course I didn’t. We tried multiple ... Read Full Story

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Bruce Brannon

In October of 2017 I had the flu and visited my primary care physician, I was given medication to take and sent home. Four weeks later, I had not improved, so I visited my doctors office again. (Sepsis and Influenza) I was dehydrated so they gave me an IV with fluid, and given more medication. A few days later I was admitted to the hospital for 3 days, where I received IV antibiotics and fluids and discharged About four weeks later and I still had not improved, so another trip to my doctors office, and was immediately sent to the ... Read Full Story

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Lochlin DeSantis

On January 20th of 2020 our 5-year-old son Lochlin passed away from flu – sepsis. (Sepsis and Influenza) Saturday he was tired with a low grade fever and some minor body aches. By Sunday he was feeling much better and was up playing with his brothers, until Sunday night he took a turn for the worst. We took him to an urgent care where he was diagnosed with influenza type A and mild dehydration. Monday afternoon January 20th, 2020 he passed away from flu – sepsis. Since then it has become our mission to spread the love Lochlin had for ... Read Full Story

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Joshua Roy

On Oct 13th 2019, my 13 year old son, Josh became very ill; only complaining of a sore throat and fever the day prior. Josh went unresponsive in our home, an ambulance came and took him to the closest hospital where the doctor immediately intubated him and sent him on a helicopter to Riley Hospital for Children. The outlook seemed to be grim. Josh’s diagnoses was influenza b, necrotizing staph pneumonia, viral myocarditis, and septic shock. (Sepsis and Influenza, Sepsis and Pneumonia, Sepsis and Viral Infections, Sepsis and Septic Shock) Our boy wasn’t expected to live. The night he arrived ... Read Full Story

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Respiratory Infections