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The power of a sneeze can propel around 100,000 germs up to a distance of 25 feet. Microbes live for hours on solid surfaces and fabrics, enabling them to spread quickly from person to person. Some chest infections are mild and clear up on their own, but others can be life-threatening. Recurring chest infections may indicate a more severe respiratory problem. Typically, chest infections clear the body within three weeks.

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What's a Chest Infection?

Chest infections affect people of all ages. They occur in the lungs and large airways that create the respiratory system, producing infected mucus and fluid, swelling the airways of the lungs, and causing inflammation. This results in coughing and breathing problems. Coughs put a lot of stress on vital airways. More than 30 million Americans visit the doctor every year with coughs and chest infections.

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Causes of Chest Infections

The main types of chest infection are bronchitis and pneumonia. Your age and health condition impact how severely the infection affects you. Viruses are responsible for most bronchitis cases, while bacteria generally cause pneumonia. Both bacterial and viral infections spread when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Micro-organisms live for hours on different surfaces.

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'Coughs and Sneezes Spread Diseases'

Sneezes begin at the rear of the throat and can spew out as many as 40,000 droplets of salvia and germs out at speeds of up to 200 miles per hour. These tiny droplets of fluid contain the virus or bacteria; once in the air, they can be inhaled by others. Coughing or sneezing into your hands helps little, though the infection will also spread to your hands or another surface. Anybody who shakes your hand or touches those surfaces before touching their mouth or nose risks becoming infected and developing a chest infection while the virus or bacteria lives.

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Primary Symptoms of a Chest Infection

Bacterial and viral infections that impact the respiratory system can cause severe discomfort. A chest cough may produce green or yellow phlegm, wheeziness, and shortness of breath. Chest infections may cause an individual to run a high-temperature (fever) of 100 degrees Fahrenheit or above for more than twelve hours. You may experience chest pain, headache, aching muscles, or tiredness. These symptoms usually get better on their own after approximately seven to ten days. A cough the produces mucus can linger for up to three weeks.

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Coping with a Chest Infection

Try to get plenty of rest and drink lots of water. Fluids will help loosen the mucus, making it easier to cough up. Coughing up the phlegm helps clear the infection from your lungs. A decongestant can help loosen the mucus in your lungs, so it's easier to cough up. Consult your physician for dosage. Use an air humidifier or breathe in steam from a bowl of hot water. Adding menthol or eucalyptus oil may help. Be careful when breathing in steam, as this can cause scalding and is only for adults. Hot water with lemon and honey can relieve sore throats, anti-inflammatories bring down high temperatures and ease headaches, and muscle pain Using extra pillow while sleeping can make breathing easier and clear mucus from the chest.

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Cough Medicine

Cough medicine might be the go-to solution for people dealing with a chest cough or infection, but the syrups and lozenges tend to contain alcohol, sugar, and other ingredients that mask symptoms rather than treat them. There is not a lot of evidence supporting the ultimate usefulness of these treatments, and the Food and Drug Administration stated in 2008 that they shouldn't be given to very young children.

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When to Consult a Physician

Many chest infections aren't dangerous and will get better within a few days or a few weeks. However, if symptoms progress to coughing up blood or blood-stained mucus, it is imperative the individual contact their doctor. People with weakened immune systems due to rheumatoid arthritis or chemotherapy, for instance, should inform a physician immediately of chest infection symptoms. Stress, lack of sleep, and smoking can also decrease your immune system and increase the severity of the infection. Pregnant women, those over 65, and people with long-term heart, lung, or kidney disorders should seek medical help if a cough lasts more than three weeks, as symptoms could indicate pneumonia.

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Medical Intervention

Treatment depends on what caused the chest infection: antibiotics are only used to treat bacterial chest infections such as pneumonia. They don't work for viral chest infections, such as the flu or viral bronchitis. Viral infections usually clear up by themselves after a few weeks. Chest infections are more dangerous for the elderly because their bodies are less capable of fighting off infections.

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Stop Spreading Germs

The best remedy for viral and bacterial infections is to practice dedicated personal hygiene, particularly during flu season. Avoid passing chest infections on to others by putting your hands or elbow over your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze. Wash your hands thoroughly and frequently. Sanitize and clean surfaces with anti-bacterial spray. Discard used tissues immediately and avoid crowded places. If you're sick stay home from work, school, and other public places.

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Preventing a Chest Infection

If you keep catching chest infections, or if you're at a higher risk of developing respiratory issues, some lifestyle changes can help reduce vulnerability. Stopping smoking and avoiding excess alcohol, as well as regular exercise, avoiding dusty or polluted areas, and eating a healthy diet to boost your immunity can all make a positive difference.

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Disclaimer

This site offers information designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on any information on this site as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or as a substitute for, professional counseling care, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional.