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Symptoms, Causes & Treatment

Chest infections are a very common condition, which usually occur after you’ve had a cold or the flu, especially during the winter months.

While most tend to only last a few days and will get better without medical treatment, more serious cases can be highly unpleasant and even fatal.

If you think you might have a chest infection, don’t delay. Speak to a doctor today.

Our GPs will be able to discuss your symptoms, diagnose whether or not you’ve got a chest infection and if needed, prescribe the medication you need to get back on your feet.

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chest infection
symptoms of chest infection

Chest Infection Symptoms

Symptoms of chest infections can include a high temperature, headaches, feelings of tiredness, muscle pain and a loss of appetite. Other symptoms are:

  • Coughing and wheezing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Coughing up phlegm or blood
  • Pain or tightness in the chest
  • Feeling dazed and confused
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What Causes Chest Infections?

Chest infections occur when viruses or bacteria target the airways or lungs, with pneumonia and bronchitis being two of the most common types.

They can be caused by either viruses or bacteria, which are typically spread by inhaling particles of the virus or bacteria that someone else has coughed or sneezed out.

Chest infections can affect practically anyone, but you’re particularly at risk if your immune system is already compromised. Some at-risk groups include:

man coughing
elderly woman

  • Young children and babies
  • The elderly
  • Pregnant women
  • Overweight people
  • Smokers
  • Those with a weakened immune system due to cancer therapy or a recent transplant
  • Sufferers of long-term conditions like diabetes, asthma, kidney disease, cystic fibrosis or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
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Treating Chest Infections

While most chest infections should clear up of their own accord within a few days - you should speak to a GP if your symptoms are particularly severe, or you find you’re not getting better after about a week.

If you’re in one of the at-risk groups mentioned above, are coughing up blood, or find parts of your skin or lips are developing a blue tinge - you should seek medical advice as soon as possible as it could be a more severe chest infection.

In less serious cases, you should be able to manage your symptoms by resting, taking in plenty of fluids and using over-the-counter painkillers to tackle headaches, fevers and any joint or muscle pain you may be experiencing.

man with chest infection

However, you should avoid taking cough medicines, since coughing can actually help clear phlegm from your lungs and help you get over the infection faster.

Since chest infections can take many forms, there’s no one-size-fits-all treatment. For instance, antibiotics aren’t usually prescribed in cases of bronchitis (which is typically caused by a virus), while these are the preferred treatment for serious cases of pneumonia.

If you’re suffering from a chest infection that’s not getting any better - speak to a doctor today. Our doctors can discuss your symptoms, diagnose what type of chest infection you have and recommend a course of treatment - including prescription medication if necessary.

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