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Chest infection

Chest infections are infections of the lungs or large airways. You can sometimes get them after having a cold or flu.

Symptoms of a chest infection include a chesty cough, wheezing, a high temperature and aching muscles.

A chest infection will usually get better by itself if you get plenty of rest. A GP may prescribe antibiotics if it's caused by a bacterial infection.

Read more on the NHS website.

Symptoms of a chest infection include a chesty cough, wheezing, a high temperature and aching muscles.

Check if you have a chest infection

Chest infections often follow colds or flu.

The main symptoms are:

These symptoms can be unpleasant, but they usually get better on their own in about 7 to 10 days.

The cough and mucus can last up to 3 weeks.

Read more on the NHS website.

A chest infection will usually get better by itself if you get plenty of rest. A GP may prescribe antibiotics if it's caused by a bacterial infection.

Self-care

If you have a chest infection:


Do

  • get plenty of rest
  • drink lots of water to loosen the mucus and make it easier to cough up
  • raise your head up while sleeping using extra pillows to make breathing easier and clear your chest of mucus
  • use painkillers to bring down a fever and ease headaches and muscle pain
  • drink a hot lemon and honey drink to relieve a sore throat

Don't

  • do not let children breathe in steam from a bowl of hot water because of the risk of scalding
  • do not give aspirin to children under 16
  • do not take cough medicines – there's little evidence to show they help
  • do not smoke – it can make your symptoms worse

Medical treatments

Treatment will depend on what caused your chest infection:

  • a virus (like viral bronchitis) – this usually clears up by itself after a few weeks and antibiotics will not help
  • bacteria (like pneumonia) – a GP may prescribe antibiotics (make sure you complete the whole course as advised by your GP, even if you start to feel better)

Antibiotics are only used to treat bacterial chest infections. They're not used for treating viral chest infections, such as flu or viral bronchitis, because they do not work for this type of infection.

A sample of your mucus may need to be tested to see what's causing your chest infection.

Read more on the NHS website.