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What are Different Types of Chest Infections?

By Erin Oxendine
Updated Jan 21, 2024
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A chest infection is a common medical condition in adults and children caused by bacteria and viruses. There are different types of chest infections including pneumonia, pertussis, and bronchitis. If left untreated, this health problem can lead to shortness of breath, a weakened immune system, and in severe cases even death.

One of the infections of the chest that often requires hospitalization is pneumonia. Pneumonia causes inflammation and fluid to develop in the chest and lungs. Some of the symptoms are coughing, fever, and chest pain. Walking pneumonia is a mild form of this infection that often is confused with a cold because the symptoms are not as bad as full-blown pneumonia. If a doctor suspects that a person has this illness, the physician may recommend a chest x-ray and prescribe antibiotics if needed.

Some people suffer from chronic infections such as bronchitis. People who have bronchitis usually have lingering coughs, chest irritation, and fatigue. Individuals who have weak respiratory systems such as the elderly and children may be prone to developing bronchitis due to other health issues. In order to diagnose bronchitis, the patient may need to have a lung function test, an x-ray, and a bacterial sputum test. The doctor will also check for lung diseases such as emphysema or asthma.

Certain chest infections such as pertussis are caused by bacteria and are highly contagious. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are about 300,000 deaths worldwide every year just from pertussis. The condition causes individuals to gasp for air and make loud coughing noises as they are trying to breathe. Pertussis is also called whooping cough because the coughing sound that patients make is similar to a whooping noise. Physicians recommend vaccinations for people who have never had pertussis and can prescribe medication for individuals diagnosed with the infection.

Pleurisy or pleuritis is one of the infections that affects the pleura lining of the lungs. This condition usually occurs in conjunction with other illnesses such as influenza, lung clots, or tuberculosis. When a person has pleurisy, he may experience pain in the chest area when breathing. Since pleurisy is generally considered a secondary condition, most doctors will tend to focus on resolving the primary infection first.

There are also general upper respiratory chest infections that are caused by viruses. Typically, people will get these infections after becoming sick with a cold or sinus infection because they are unable to fight off the germs. Individuals who have influenza sometimes develop chest infections as well. The symptoms that patients might have with an upper respiratory infection include coughing, headache, and fever.

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Discussion Comments
By Oceana — On May 11, 2012

@wavy58 – My doctor used steroids as a viral chest infection treatment. She gave me a steroid shot and five pills to take over the next five days, and I got better within just a few days.

The steroids gave my immune system and my body the boost of strength it needed to fight the infection. I think they also lessened the inflammation in my bronchial tubes and lungs.

My doctor did give me a cough syrup with codeine in it to help me sleep at night, and it was the only thing that gave me any rest. I stopped coughing long enough to fall asleep, which was easy to do with the codeine at work.

By wavy58 — On May 10, 2012

What can a doctor give you for a viral chest infection? I know that antibiotics are useless when the infection is caused by a virus, so I just wonder if there is anything that can help you get over a viral infection faster.

I tend to get bronchitis every year or so, and usually, I just suffer through it at home. It lasts for weeks, though, and I feel so miserable not being able to get a good breath without a fit of coughing.

Is there anything a doctor can give me to help me get well quicker? Is there some sort of miracle cough syrup on the market that heals bronchitis?

By Perdido — On May 09, 2012

Some symptoms of a chest infection may vary, but one that is common to all kinds is the persistent cough. Though you may not always have a fever or runny nose, you will struggle to get the phlegm out of your air passages.

I have had a variety of chest infections. I've had acute bronchitis, excess phlegm from an old sinus infection, and irritated bronchial tubes caused by breathing in too much dust. All of these caused a cough that was so strong it kept me home from work.

The treatments vary, too, but all kinds of chest infections can be eased with over the counter expectorants and cough suppressants. I've taken these no matter what the cause of my infection was, and sometimes, I took them in addition to antibiotics. They gave me enough relief to sleep through the night.

By kylee07drg — On May 09, 2012

I had whooping cough as a kid, and it was pretty intense. This chest infection caused a cough that tried to strangle me, and it worried my mother greatly.

It started out like a regular cold. After about a week of dealing with a runny nose, I got this cough that would not let me breathe. I would have spells where I coughed so much that I could not get a good breath, and my face would turn red.

It really tired me out. I had no energy, and all my mother could do was put me in a room with a vaporizer and keep giving me cough syrup. It eventually went away, but I was so fatigued by then that it took me several days just to regain enough strength to function normally.

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