Diseases of the Upper Respiratory System Terminology

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  • 0:00 Upper Respiratory Infection
  • 0:30 Influenza & Rhinorrhea
  • 1:27 Pertussis & Diphtheria
  • 3:12 Allergic Rhinitis & Epistaxis
  • 4:08 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

This lesson will define many different upper respiratory infections, diseases, and disorders: upper respiratory infection, influenza, pertussis, croup, diphtheria, allergic rhinitis, rhinorrhea, and epistaxis. Once you've completed this lesson, take the quiz to test your new knowledge.

Upper Respiratory Infection

I would be highly shocked if you've never had an Upper Respiratory Infection (URI) before. That's because this is just another term for the common cold. Such an infection is caused by more than 200 different viruses. Among these viruses, the most common, common cold virus is known as the rhinovirus.

Anyways, a common cold is not the only upper respiratory disease or disorder that a person can get. This lesson will go over many other ones you've surely heard of.

Influenza & Rhinorrhea

Perhaps just as likely as you getting the common cold is you being infected with the flu or influenza. That definition should be pretty easy to recall since influenza has the word 'flu' built smack in the middle of it.

Both influenza and the common cold have a common sign known as Rhinorrhea, or runny nose, where 'rhin/o' pertains to the nose and '-rrhea' means some sort of abnormal discharge. Imagine a rhinoceros to help remember what rhin/o stand for. They have a pretty big horn on their nose!

The stuff that's running out of your nose during a cold or the flu is mucus, by the way. The outflow of mucus is blocked during another upper respiratory disorder called sinusitis, which is quite literally the inflammation of the sinuses, where the suffix '-itis' means that something is inflamed, in this case, the sinuses!

Pertussis & Diptheria

When you have a cold or flu, besides a runny nose, you're likely to have a cough. But a regular ol' cough is not the same thing as whooping cough, or pertussis. While the common cold and flu are caused by viruses, pertussis is caused by bacteria.

Pertussis is characterized by repeated bouts of something that's known as a paroxysmal cough, where paroxysmal means that it's of a sudden onset or occurs in a sharp spasm. This severe hacking cough is followed up by breathlessness and the noisy intake of breath that sounds like a whoop.

Pertussis is not the only disease associated with a specific kind of cough. A viral infection of the upper airways, most commonly found in children, which obstructs breathing and causes a harsh barking cough is called Croup. As air is pushed through narrowed and inflamed airways and the voice box (larynx) in this condition, the sound of a barking seal emerges.

Other than pertussis, another contagious bacterial infection of the upper respiratory tract, one that also forms a grayish membrane that covers the upper part of the throat and tonsils is called diphtheria.

The word diphtheria comes from the Greek for skin or leather, referring to this disgusting, thick, grayish membrane that forms like a second skin on the back of the person's throat. This can actually block the person's ability to breathe normally.

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