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.