Chest infections are common, especially after a cold or flu during autumn and winter. Although most are mild and get better on their own, some can be serious or even life-threatening.
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.
Although most common chest infections will clear up without treatment, if the infection is particularly severe or symptoms do not begin to ease within 2–3 weeks, it may be time to see a doctor.
Viral chest infections
Many chest infections are caused by a virus. This usually clears up by itself after a few weeks. Antibiotics will not help a viral chest infection.
Many chest infections aren't serious and get better within a few days or weeks. You won't usually need to see your GP, unless your symptoms suggest you have a more serious infection (see below). While you recover at home, you can improve your symptoms by: getting plenty of rest.
If you have a bacterial chest infection, you should start to feel better 24 to 48 hours after starting on antibiotics. You may have a cough for days or weeks. For other types of chest infections, the recovery is more gradual. You may feel weak for some time and need a longer period of bed rest.
Even if you're coughing up yellow or green phlegm, you might not need antibiotics. Your mucus color alone can't tell you if a virus or bacteria is causing your cough. If your cough lasts longer than 3 weeks, it's time to see a healthcare provider. You may need an X-ray or antibiotics.
The symptoms of a chest infection are more likely to include coughing and bringing up phlegm. An upper respiratory tract infection may cause a cough, but it can also produce symptoms such as sneezing, a blocked or runny nose and a sore throat. The effects of a chest infection will also tend to last a little longer.
Dozens of conditions can cause a recurrent, lingering cough, but the lion's share are caused by just five: postnasal drip, asthma, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), chronic bronchitis, and treatment with ACE inhibitors, used for high blood pressure and heart failure.
The main symptoms of a chest infection can include: a persistent cough. coughing up yellow or green phlegm (thick mucus), or coughing up blood. breathlessness or rapid and shallow breathing.
If your mucus is dry and you are having trouble coughing it up, you can do things like take a steamy shower or use a humidifier to wet and loosen the mucus. When you do cough up phlegm (another word for mucus) from your chest, Dr. Boucher says it really doesn't matter if you spit it out or swallow it.
A bronchitis cough sounds like a rattle with a wheezing or whistling sound. As your condition progresses, you will first have a dry cough that can then progress towards coughing up white mucus.
Will I get antibiotics? Both pharmacists can write prescriptions, so if after examining you they feel you have a bacterial infection they are able to write you a prescription for the most appropriate treatment. Many conditions are caused by viruses and do not require antibiotics.
Bronchitis usually clears up without treatment in around 3 weeks. See a GP if your symptoms last longer than 3 weeks. You may need antibiotics if your bronchitis is caused by a bacterial infection.
Your doctor may prescribe antibiotics if the symptoms are severe and include high fever along with nasal drainage and a productive cough. Antibiotics may also be necessary if you feel better after a few days and then your symptoms return or if the infection lasts more than a week.
The lowdown. As pneumonia progresses, it has four stages: Congestion, red hepatization, gray hepatization, and resolution. You'll typically feel worse during the first three stages before feeling better during the final stage when the immune cells clear the infection.