Airborne Diseases: Types, Prevention, and Symptoms

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What are airborne diseases?

Airborne diseases describe illnesses that arise due to microorganisms that are transmitted through the air. They fluctuate greatly in severity.

By merely breathing, one can quickly contact an airborne illness. Aerosolised particles from airborne diseases travel through the air from one person to another. The main causes of infections are microorganisms like bacteria, viruses and fungi. These disease-causing microbes may originate from people or animals.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the germs enter the air and become suspended when someone breathes or sneezes. The dispersed particles could be exposed to random people passing by. 

When a person breathes or sneezes, the germs may be released into the air as wet droplets. They will be suspended in the air, and some of the droplets will dry up, leaving tiny particles behind. 

These particles, which are hanging in the air, have the potential to attach to or penetrate the adjacent people’s bodies.

Compared to other types of transmissible diseases, airborne diseases spread far more swiftly. As a result, controlling them is difficult.

Many features of suspended particles have been listed by the CDC, and they are as follows.

  • Contains active microorganisms
  • Consists of a dry secretion layer that serves as protection, such as mucus and saliva
  • They travel long distances and might remain in the air for a longer time

Common causes of airborne diseases

There are many different bacteria that cause airborne diseases. The illness can occasionally have similar consequences despite each of them having a unique breakdown process. 

There are mainly five different categories that cause airborne diseases.

Types of Airborne diseases

Common cold

The rhinovirus causes common cold. Most people around the world experience the common cold every year. 

Every year, our nation experiences many cases of the common cold. A normal adult contracts two to three colds per year. Kids also frequently experience them.

A runny nose, sneezing, congestion and a high temperature are typical cold symptoms.


Influenza is one of the most contagious illnesses and is also referred to as the flu. This condition affects the nose, throat and lungs and is caused by a virus. Many people are susceptible to complications from influenza that can be fatal and cause severe sickness. 

We experience coughing or the flu at some point in our life. This illness begins to harm us even before there are any visible signs. The immune system is weakened as it spreads throughout the body. 

It is difficult to distinguish different flu and provide immunisations for such diseases since these illnesses might develop and take on new forms. It spreads easily in about 5 to 7 days.


A chickenpox outbreak can last up to 21 days (about 3 weeks) due to the varicella-zoster virus. Chickenpox often only affects a person once in their lifetime. But, if the virus returns later in life, the person may develop shingles. In addition, if a person has never had chickenpox, they can get it from someone who has shingles.


Most of the children’s illnesses and deaths are significantly attributed to Diphtheria. Although this illness is uncommon at present, it has the ability to harm not only the respiratory system but also the heart, kidneys and nerves.

Due to extensive immunisation, there have only been a small number of cases documented in the last ten years.

It may result in visible neck swelling. This could make breathing and swallowing difficult, which could harm the respiratory system.

Diphtheria symptoms include weakness, swollen lymph nodes, fever and sore throat.


Measles is a harmful disease, especially in populated areas. The condition can spread to other people and occur four days before and four days after the measles rash.

After exposure, the measles rash might develop 7 to 18 days later. With 140,000 deaths, measles is the leading cause of death among children worldwide.

Ear infections, diarrhoea, dehydration, severe respiratory infections, blindness, brain swelling and encephalitis are among the severe side effects of measles.

Cough, runny nose, itchy eyes, sore throat, fever and a red, blotchy skin rash are some of the symptoms of measles.

Whooping Cough

Whooping cough, also known as pertussis, causes the air ducts to expand and develop into a fatal cough. It is very contagious in the first few weeks after starting to cough. There are 24 million instances of pertussis annually, and roughly 160,700 people pass away from it.


Mumps are extremely contagious and are likely to spread before recognising the symptoms. Symptoms usually appear at least 5 days after contracting the disease.

The mumps virus has mostly been contained by available immunisation. Nowadays, its spread is confined to those who live in crowded regions.

Tuberculosis (TB)

Mycobacterium Tuberculosis causes the airborne disease tuberculosis (TB)

The risk of contracting the illness is highest in those with weakened immune systems. The time it takes for symptoms to manifest might range from a few days to many years.

Depending on which organs or body systems are impacted, TB symptoms can vary. It could involve coughing up blood or sputum.


The transmission of the new coronavirus has accelerated recently. In 2019, China reported the first case, which quickly spread to the rest of the world as a pandemic. It is a type of modifying an airborne disease that mutates over time. 

Even scientists are still attempting to comprehend its actions. It seems like new information on its symptoms is available every day. The typical symptoms include a dry cough, a high body temperature, fatigue and breathing difficulties.

Symptoms of airborne diseases

Most airborne infections have similar symptoms. One or more of the following symptoms may be present in a patient.

  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Throat pain
  • Body pain
  • Congestion
  • Cough
  • Sneeze
  • Runny nose
  • Loss of appetite
  • Inflammation of glands
  • Inflammation of the lungs, sinuses, throat, nose or gums.

When someone has chickenpox or measles, they may experience painful rashes, diarrhoea and dehydration.

Risk factors

Airborne diseases are highly contagious, so anyone can contract them. There is a considerable risk of infection for someone who is in close proximity to a patient who is ill. The risk of contracting the disease is also very high for healthcare professionals like nurses and doctors.

Vaccines and medications are available to treat most airborne diseases.

Treatment for airborne diseases

Depending on the condition, different types of airborne diseases have different treatments. The medication and treatment methods may vary in treating these viral, bacterial and fungal diseases.

A few common treatments include,


Medications, especially antibiotics, are given to patients based on their disease. Antibiotics will be administered to people with bacterial diseases like whooping cough. Although they can reduce the duration, medications cannot treat viral infections.

Adequate Sleep

Those who have airborne infections should rest completely. Together with maintaining a healthy and balanced diet, they should also consume enough fluids to keep themselves hydrated.


Some of these airborne diseases have the potential to be fatal in certain circumstances. A person must be admitted to the hospital in such cases. For instance, corona virus-infected patients were hospitalised at the start of the pandemic since the virus was so new and severe, and doctors don’t know how to treat it.

Nevertheless, there is no specific treatment for airborne illnesses like measles and chickenpox, so patients usually rely on supportive care.

Due to their ease of transmission, airborne infections should be prevented by taking precautions.

Prevention of airborne diseases

Most airborne diseases spread through a person’s home or place of employment. It is essential to adopt healthy habits indoors to stop the development of airborne infections. 

Some of the most effective and basic prevention methods are to

  • Always wash your hands.
  • Cough or sneeze into the elbow or a handkerchief.
  • Clean common areas frequently, including handles, counters and doorknobs.

Maintain hygiene

Hygiene on both a personal and social level is essential. It lowers the transmission of certain airborne illnesses. While sneezing or coughing in public, keep a safe distance, wear a face mask and cover the mouth and eyes with tissues or handkerchiefs.

Also, ensure that indoor spaces have adequate ventilation to keep viruses and germs out of the air. The transmission of illnesses occurs through dirty air.


Airborne diseases can spread from one person to another when pathogen-containing particles travel through the air, and some of them remain suspended there. This is a method of transmission for many bacteria, viruses and fungi.

People should be careful to cover their mouth and nose while sneezing and keep away from others if they are ill to prevent infection or spreading sickness to another person. 

To ensure adequate ventilation, hospitals should abide by the rules. Severe sickness and rapid transmission are two characteristics of airborne infections. 

They occasionally have a fatal outcome if improperly managed. But one can stop them from spreading by following preventive measures as mentioned.


What are the four causes of airborne diseases?

An airborne disease may be brought on by,
1. Bacteria
2. Fungi
3. Viruses
4. Protozoa.

What is the prevention of airborne diseases?

It is difficult to control and prevent the spread of infections through the air.
Maintaining hygiene, washing hands frequently, cleaning common areas and coughing or sneezing into the elbow, using PPE kits are common prevention techniques for airborne diseases.

What is the way airborne diseases are transmitted?

Tiny respiratory droplets are the primary method of transmission for bacteria or viruses that cause airborne illnesses. When someone who has the airborne disease sneezes, coughs, laughs or exhales in any way, these droplets are released.


The Information including but not limited to text, graphics, images and other material contained on this blog are intended for education and awareness only. No material on this blog is intended to be a substitute for professional medical help including diagnosis or treatment. It is always advisable to consult medical professional before relying on the content. Neither the Author nor Star Health and Allied Insurance Co. Ltd accepts any responsibility for any potential risk to any visitor/reader.

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