How Do You Know If You’ve Got A Chest Infection?

Cough. Beautiful Women Having Sore Throat Cough Cold

Advice given by Dr Elizabeth Kershaw-Yates, GP and one of the medical team at The Online Clinic.

Dr Elizabeth Kershaw-Yates

Dr Elizabeth Kershaw-Yates

You’ve got a cold and your nose has been running, but it’s the cough that’s really worrying you. Is it just a cough or is it something more serious?

Chest Infections: Symptoms, Remedies And Recovery

Chest infections usually come in two forms:

  • acute bronchitis (infection of the large airways into the lung) and
  • pneumonia (an infection of the lung). 

Acute bronchitis usually isn’t serious, and most people recover without medical attention. However, pneumonia is a much more serious infection which usually needs antibiotic treatment.

Acute bronchitis symptoms

Symptoms of acute bronchitis include:

  • A persistent cough
  • Coughing up phlegm
  • Wheeziness
  • Headache
  • Elevated temperature

The symptoms will usually last for around 10 days but can then take up to 3 weeks to clear. If your symptoms last longer than three weeks, the infection may have spread. So, make sure you visit your GP to discuss this.

Sick woman portrait checking thermometer temperature

Pic: iStockphoto

Pneumonia symptoms

Pneumonia is a more serious infection and can sometimes mean you’ll need to be admitted to hospital. The symptoms include:

  • Chest pain
  • Fever
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Coughing up phlegm

Do I need treatment?

If your symptoms are mild, then it’s likely you have bronchitis and will not require any treatment. The following however, can help with recovery if you have acute bronchitis:

  • Plenty of rest
  • Over the counter drugs like ibuprofen, paracetamol and aspirin to reduce fever and ease aches and pains
  • Drinking plenty of fluids
  • Avoiding lying flat while sleeping as this can cause phlegm to build up
  • Avoid cough syrups and remedies as this can make things worse.

If your symptoms are persisting or getting worse, visit a GP as possible as you may have pneumonia.

If you do have pneumonia, you will probably need antibiotic therapy and if your symptoms are particularly serious you might need to be admitted to hospital.



Moira Chisholm

I'm the Health Editor on My Weekly and am always interested to hear what's new in this fascinating field. I also deal with the gardening, shopping pages, general features, our website content and the Ask Helen problem page. I have a special interest in Christmas content because I'm on the team for Your Best Ever Christmas Magazine, too!