How and when to manage respiratory infections out of hospital

Eur Respir Rev. 2022 Oct 19;31(166):220092. doi: 10.1183/16000617.0092-2022. Print 2022 Dec 31.


Lower respiratory infections include acute bronchitis, influenza, community-acquired pneumonia, acute exacerbation of COPD and acute exacerbation of bronchiectasis. They are a major cause of death worldwide and often affect the most vulnerable: children, elderly and the impoverished. In this paper, we review the clinical presentation, diagnosis, severity assessment and treatment of adult outpatients with lower respiratory infections. The paper is divided into sections on specific lower respiratory infections, but we also dedicate a section to COVID-19 given the importance of the ongoing pandemic. Lower respiratory infections are heterogeneous entities, carry different risks for adverse events, and require different management strategies. For instance, while patients with acute bronchitis are rarely admitted to hospital and generally do not require antimicrobials, approximately 40% of patients seen for community-acquired pneumonia require admission. Clinicians caring for patients with lower respiratory infections face several challenges, including an increasing population of patients with immunosuppression, potential need for diagnostic tests that may not be readily available, antibiotic resistance and social aspects that place these patients at higher risk. Management principles for patients with lower respiratory infections include knowledge of local surveillance data, strategic use of diagnostic tests according to surveillance data, and judicious use of antimicrobials.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / adverse effects
  • Anti-Infective Agents* / therapeutic use
  • Bronchitis* / diagnosis
  • Bronchitis* / drug therapy
  • COVID-19*
  • Child
  • Community-Acquired Infections* / diagnosis
  • Community-Acquired Infections* / drug therapy
  • Community-Acquired Infections* / epidemiology
  • Hospitals
  • Humans
  • Pneumonia* / diagnosis
  • Respiratory Tract Infections* / diagnosis
  • Respiratory Tract Infections* / drug therapy
  • Respiratory Tract Infections* / epidemiology


  • Anti-Infective Agents
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents