Analysis of Respiratory Symptoms

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Analysis of Respiratory Symptoms


Analysis of Respiratory Symptoms are indications of problems within the respiratory system, the network of organs responsible for breathing. This system includes the nose, throat, airways (windpipe and bronchi), lungs, and the muscles that help us breathe.

Runny, blocked nose and sneezing  in Analysis of Respiratory Symptoms

Analysis of Respiratory Symptoms- Nasal symptoms are extremely common and both common colds and allergic rhinitis cause ‘runny nose’ (rhinorrhoea), nasal blockage and attacks of sneezing. In allergic rhinitis, symptoms may be intermittent, following contact with pollens or animal danders, or persistent, especially when house-dust mite is the allergen. Colds are frequent during the winter but if the symptoms persist for weeks the patient probably has perennial rhinitis rather than persistent viral infection.
Nasal secretions are usually thin and runny in allergic rhinitis
but thicker and discoloured with viral infections. Nose bleeds and blood-stained nasal discharge are common and rarely indicate serious pathology. However, a blood-stained nasal discharge associated with nasal obstruction and pain may be the presenting feature of a nasal tumour. Nasal polyps typically present with nasal blockage and loss of smell.

Cough in Analysis of Respiratory Symptoms:

Cough is the commonest symptom of lower respiratory tract disease. It is caused by mechanical or chemical stimulation of cough receptors in the epithelium of the pharynx, larynx, trachea, bronchi and diaphragm. Afferent receptors go to the cough centre in the medulla where efferent signals are generated to the expiratory musculature.

Smokers often have a morning cough with a little sputum. A productive cough is the cardinal feature of chronic bronchitis, while dry coughing, particularly at night, can be a symptom of asthma. Cough also occurs in asthmatics after mild exertion or following forced expiration. Cough can also occur for psychological reasons without any definable pathology.
A worsening cough is the most common presenting symptom of lung cancer. The normal explosive character of the cough is lost when a vocal cord is paralysed, usually as a result of lung cancer infiltrating the left recurrent laryngeal nerve – sometimes termed a bovine cough. Cough can be accompanied by stridor in whooping cough or if there is laryngeal or tracheal obstruction.

Sputum in Analysis of Respiratory Symptoms:

Approximately 100 mL of mucus is produced daily in a healthy, non-smoking individual. This flows gradually up the airways, through the larynx, and is then swallowed. Excess mucus is expectorated as sputum. Cigarette smoking is the commonest cause of excess mucus production.
Mucoid sputum is clear and white but can contain black specks resulting from the inhalation of carbon. Yellow or green sputum is due to the presence of cellular material, including bronchial epithelial cells, or neutrophil or eosinophil granulocytes.
Yellow sputum is not necessarily due to infection, as eosinophils in the sputum, as seen in asthma, can give the same appearance. The production of large quantities of yellow or green sputum is characteristic of bronchiectasis.
Haemoptysis (blood-stained sputum) varies from small streaks of blood to massive bleeding.


  • The commonest cause of mild haemoptysis is acute infection, particularly in exacerbations of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) but it should not be attributed to this without investigation.
  • Other common causes are pulmonary infarction, bronchial carcinoma and tuberculosis.
  • In lobar pneumonia, the sputum is usually rusty in appearance rather than frankly blood-stained.
  • Pink, frothy sputum is seen in pulmonary oedema.
  • In bronchiectasis, the blood is often mixed with purulent sputum.
  • Massive haemoptyses (>200 mL of blood in 24 hours) are usually due to bronchiectasis or tuberculosis.
  • Uncommon causes of haemoptyses are idiopathic pulmonary haemosiderosis, Goodpasture’s syndrome, microscopic polyangiitis, trauma, blood disorders and benign tumours.

Haemoptysis should always be investigated. Although a diagnosis can often be made from a chest X-ray, a normal chest X-ray does not exclude disease. However, if the chest X-ray is normal, CT scanning and bronchoscopy are only diagnostic in about 5% of patients with haemoptysis.
Firm plugs of sputum may be coughed up by patients suffering from an exacerbation of allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis. Sometimes such sputum looks like casts of inflamed bronchi.

Wheezing in Analysis of Respiratory Symptoms:

Wheezing is a common complaint and results from airflow limitation due to any cause. The symptom of wheezing is not diagnostic of asthma; other causes include vocal chord dysfunction, bronchiolitis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Conversely, wheeze may be absent in the early stages of asthma.

Chest pain in Analysis of Respiratory Symptoms:

The most common type of chest pain reported in respiratory disease is a localized sharp pain, often termed pleuritic. It is made worse by deep breathing or coughing and the patient can usually localize it. Localized anterior chest pain with tenderness of a costochondral junction is caused by costochondritis. Shoulder tip pain suggests irritation of the diaphragmatic pleura, while central chest pain radiating to the neck and arms is likely to be cardiac. Retrosternal soreness is associated with tracheitis, while malignant invasion of the chest wall causes a constant, severe, dull pain.



it is a sense of awareness of increased respiratory effort that is unpleasant and that is recognized by the patient as being inappropriate. Patients often complain of tightness in the chest; this must be differentiated from angina.


it should be assessed in relation to the
patient’s lifestyle. For example, a moderate degree of breathlessness will be totally disabling if the patient has to climb
many flights of stairs to reach home.


it is breathlessness on lying down. While it is classically linked to heart failure, it is partly due to the weight of the abdominal contents pushing the diaphragm up into the thorax. Such patients may also become breathless on bending over.

Tachypnoea and hyperpnoea

They are, respectively, an increased rate of breathing and an increased level of ventilation. These may be appropriate responses (e.g. during exercise).


it is inappropriate overbreathing. This may occur at rest or on exertion and results in a lowering of the alveolar and arterial PCO2.

Paroxysmal nocturnal dyspnoea

it is acute episodes of breathlessness at night, typically due to heart failure.

(Reference – Kumar and Clark’s Clinical Medicine 8th Ed.)

Decoding Your Cough: A Guide to Analyzing Respiratory Symptoms

Feeling a tickle in your throat or struggling to catch your breath? Respiratory symptoms are incredibly common, affecting millions of people every year. While they can be disruptive, understanding them can help you determine the best course of action for getting back to feeling your best.

This guide will equip you to analyze your respiratory symptoms and navigate your path to feeling better.

Common Respiratory Symptoms:

  • Cough: This is a reflex that helps clear your airways of irritants and mucus. However, the type of cough can offer clues about the underlying cause.
    • Productive Cough: This cough brings up mucus or phlegm, often associated with a chest cold or sinus infection.
    • Dry Cough: This cough is hacking and unproductive, and may be caused by allergies, postnasal drip, or irritants like smoke.
  • Shortness of Breath: This feeling of breathlessness can be scary, but it doesn’t always indicate a serious problem. It can be caused by exertion, anxiety, asthma, or even heart conditions.
  • Chest Tightness: This uncomfortable feeling of pressure or tightness in your chest can be caused by conditions like costochondritis (inflammation of the cartilage in your ribs) or pleurisy (inflammation of the lining of your lungs).

When to See a Doctor:

While many respiratory symptoms are mild and resolve on their own, certain signs indicate it’s time to seek medical attention:

  • Fever above 100.4°F (38°C)
  • Difficulty breathing at rest
  • Wheezing (a high-pitched whistling sound when breathing)
  • Coughing up blood
  • Chest pain that worsens with breathing or movement
  • Symptoms that don’t improve within a week

Self-Care Tips:

If your symptoms are mild, there are some simple things you can do at home to feel better:

  • Rest: Allow your body to focus on healing.
  • Hydration: Drinking plenty of fluids helps loosen mucus and soothe a sore throat.
  • Humidifier: Adding moisture to the air can ease congestion and coughing.
  • Over-the-counter Medications: Decongestants, cough suppressants, or pain relievers may provide temporary relief (consult the label and doctor if you have pre-existing health conditions).


This article is intended for informational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice. Always consult a healthcare professional for diagnosis and treatment of any respiratory issue.

Bonus Tip: 

By understanding your respiratory symptoms and taking appropriate steps, you can get back to feeling your best in no time. Remember, if your symptoms are severe or don’t improve within a reasonable timeframe, don’t hesitate to seek professional medical advice.

Taking Charge of Your Respiratory Health: Additional Insights and Resources

Having explored common respiratory symptoms and self-care strategies, let’s delve deeper into taking charge of your respiratory health:

Preventive Measures:

  • Frequent Handwashing: This simple act is the first line of defense against many respiratory illnesses.
  • Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle: Getting enough sleep, eating a balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables, and managing stress can all contribute to a strong immune system and lower your risk of infections.
  • Avoid Smoking and Secondhand Smoke: Smoking is a major risk factor for lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
  • Vaccinations: Stay up-to-date on vaccinations like the flu shot and pneumonia vaccine, which can significantly reduce your risk of contracting these illnesses.

Understanding Common Respiratory Illnesses:

Knowing the most common respiratory conditions can help you manage your symptoms and navigate seeking help:

  • The Common Cold: This viral infection usually causes a runny or stuffy nose, sore throat, and cough. It typically resolves on its own within a week.
  • Flu: This more severe viral infection comes with fever, chills, muscle aches, fatigue, and respiratory symptoms. While most people recover within a few days to weeks, some individuals, especially young children and older adults, are at higher risk of complications.
  • Sinusitis: Inflammation of the sinus cavities can cause facial pain, pressure, congestion, and a cough that worsens at night or when bending forward.
  • Allergies: Seasonal allergies can trigger a runny or stuffy nose, itchy eyes, sneezing, and coughing.
  • Asthma: This chronic condition causes inflammation and narrowing of the airways, leading to wheezing, coughing, chest tightness, and shortness of breath.

Additional Resources:

For more information and reliable sources on respiratory health, consider these resources:

By following these tips and utilizing the provided resources, you can take an active role in maintaining healthy lungs and managing any respiratory concerns that may arise. Remember, early intervention and open communication with your healthcare provider are key to optimal respiratory health.

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