A chest infection is an infection of the lungs or large airways. Some chest infections are mild and clear up on their own, but others can be severe and life threatening.
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.
If you have a chest infection:
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
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
Do not give hot drinks to small children.
Treatment will depend on the cause of your chest infection.
It will either be caused by:
Antibiotics are only used to treat bacterial chest infections. They're not used for treating viral chest infections, like flu or viral bronchitis. This is because antibiotics do not work for viral infections.
A sample of your mucus may need to be tested to see what's causing your chest infection.
To avoid passing a chest infection on to others:
If you keep getting chest infections or you're at risk of getting one (for example, because you're over 65 or have a serious long-term health condition), you should: