Cold with chest pain

Walking Pneumonia

  • Larger text sizeLarge text sizeRegular text size

What Is Walking Pneumonia?

It can seem like kids pick up one bug after another. One week it’s a runny nose, the next a sore throat, or both. Most of the time, these bugs only last for about a week. But those that last longer can sometimes turn into walking pneumonia.

Walking pneumonia, or atypical pneumonia, is a less serious form of the lung infection pneumonia. It’s caused by Mycoplasma

, and causes cold-like symptoms, a low-grade fever, and a hacking cough.

Most kids with this form of pneumonia will not feel sick enough to stay at home — hence, the name “walking” pneumonia. But even a child who feels fine needs to stay at home for a few days until antibiotic treatment kicks in and symptoms improve.

What Are the Signs & Symptoms of Walking Pneumonia?

Colds that last longer than 7 to 10 days or respiratory illnesses like respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) can develop into walking pneumonia. Symptoms can come on suddenly or take longer to appear. Those that start slowly tend to be more severe.

Here’s what to look for:

  • a fever of 101°F (38.5°C) or below
  • headache, chills, sore throat, and other cold or flu-like symptoms
  • fast breathing or breathing with grunting or wheezing sounds
  • labored breathing that makes the rib muscles retract (when muscles under the ribcage or between ribs draw inward with each breath)
  • hacking cough
  • ear pain
  • chest pain or stomach pain
  • malaise (feeling of discomfort)
  • vomiting
  • loss of appetite (in older kids) or poor feeding (in infants)
  • rash
  • joint pain

Symptoms usually depend on where the infection is concentrated. A child whose infection is in the top or middle part of the lungs will probably have labored breathing. Another whose infection is in the lower part of the lungs (near the belly) may have no breathing problems, but may have an upset stomach, nausea, or vomiting.

How Is Walking Pneumonia Diagnosed?

Walking pneumonia is usually diagnosed through a physical examination. The doctor will check your child’s breathing and listen for a hallmark crackling sound that often indicates walking pneumonia.

If needed, a chest X-ray or tests of mucus samples from the throat or nose might be done to confirm the diagnosis.

How Is Walking Pneumonia Treated?

Antibiotics are an effective treatment for walking pneumonia. A 5- to 10-day course of oral antibiotics is usually recommended. If your doctor prescribes antibiotics, make sure your child takes them on schedule for as long as directed to recover more quickly.

Once on antibiotics, your child has a minimal risk of passing the illness on to other family members. But encourage everyone in your household to wash their hands well and often.

Don’t let your child share drinking glasses, eating utensils, towels, or toothbrushes. Wash your hands after touching any used tissues. Also make sure that your kids are up to date on their immunizations to help protect them from other infections.

How Can I Help My Child Feel Better?

Your child should drink fluids throughout the day, especially if he or she has a fever. Ask the doctor before you use a medicine to treat a cough. Cough suppressants stop the lungs from clearing mucus, which might not be helpful for lung infections like walking pneumonia.

If your child has chest pain, try placing a heating pad or warm compress on the area. Take your child’s temperature at least once each morning and each evening. Call the doctor if it goes above 102°F (38.9°C) in an older infant or child, or above 100.4°F (38°C) in an infant under 6 months of age.

With treatment, most types of bacterial pneumonia go away within 1 to 2 weeks. Coughing can take up to 4 to 6 weeks to stop.

Reviewed by: Patricia Solo-Josephson, MD Date reviewed: May 2018

When a “Chest Cold” Is Something More

You probably know the feeling of having cold symptoms that move from your head into your chest. Many people call this a chest cold. The medical term for it is “acute bronchitis.” Bronchitis is an inflammation (or irritation) of the airways. Airways are the tubes in your lungs that air passes through. They are also called “bronchial tubes.” When these tubes get infected, they swell. Mucus (thick fluid) forms inside them. This narrows the airways, making it harder for you to breathe.

Acute bronchitis is usually caused by the same viruses that cause the common cold or the flu. In these cases, the virus may affect your nose, sinuses, and throat first. Then, the infection travels to your bronchial tubes. A bacterial infection or an irritant in the air (for example, fumes or cigarette smoke) can also cause acute bronchitis.

The early signs of acute bronchitis often seem like the symptoms of a cold. That was the experience my patient Susan had. Susan (not her real name) is a 35-year-old woman. About two weeks before she came in for an office visit, she had started using over-the-counter (OTC) cold medicine and saline nasal spray to treat a stuffy nose, a sore throat, and sinus pressure. Her sinuses had started to feel better, but then she developed the following symptoms:

  • Persistent cough that brought up yellowish-green mucus
  • Chest tightness
  • Difficulty taking deep breaths
  • Wheezing (especially at night when she was lying down)
  • Occasional low-grade fever (under 102°F)

When these symptoms had not gone away after a week, Susan decided to make an appointment to see me.

Looking at Susan’s medical record, I was glad to see that she had come in previously for her yearly flu shot. I could also see that she does not have any lung conditions (for example, asthma) or chronic (ongoing) problems with her immune system. She doesn’t smoke or live with anyone who smokes.

After asking Susan about her symptoms, I gave her a physical examination. I listened closely to her lungs with a stethoscope. I didn’t hear any breathing sounds that might be a sign of pneumonia. Because Susan is otherwise healthy and doesn’t smoke, I didn’t need to order a chest X-ray to look at her lungs.

Most cases of acute bronchitis are caused by a virus, so antibiotics will not help. Antibiotics can only treat bacterial infections. I told Susan that mild cases of acute bronchitis will almost always go away on their own in 7 to 10 days. But I also let her know that she might continue to have a cough for several weeks after the other symptoms went away.

I recommended that Susan try the following simple home treatments to help her feel better in the meantime:

  • Get plenty of rest
  • Use a humidifier or try breathing steam from a hot shower to loosen mucus
  • Drink lots of water to stay hydrated and thin mucus
  • Use extra pillows to prop herself up in bed. This can help ease coughing and chest congestion.
  • Use an over-the-counter (OTC) expectorant called guaifenesin to help break up chest congestion
  • Avoid exposure to secondhand smoke

Even when acute bronchitis is caused by a virus, it’s possible for bacteria to grow in the infected airways. This is called a “secondary bacterial infection.” Your family doctor may treat it with an antibiotic. Signs of a secondary bacterial infection in a person who has acute bronchitis include the following:

  • Continuing to get sicker instead of getting better
  • Coughing up blood
  • Having a high fever (103°F or higher)
  • Having trouble breathing

I told Susan to call me if she had any of these symptoms. If she had contacted me, I would have asked her to come back into the office for a follow-up examination and additional tests, such as a chest x-ray. Fortunately, Susan got better without any complications.

Quick Tip

When I diagnose acute bronchitis in patients who smoke, I talk to them about the importance of quitting. Smoking damages your bronchial tubes and puts you at risk for infection. Smoking also slows down the healing process when you’re sick.

When you have cold-like symptoms — headache, runny nose, cough and a sore throat — you likely slow down a bit, thinking you can beat it in a few days. But when the symptoms linger or worsen — not enough to knock you off your feet, but enough so that you can’t ignore them — you may have walking pneumonia.

Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy

Walking pneumonia (AKA atypical pneumonia) strikes about 2 million people in the United States each year. It tends to be less serious than traditional pneumonia, which hospitalizes about 1 million people and causes 50,000 deaths each year. In fact, you can be up and walking around, unaware that you have this type of pneumonia — that’s how it got its name.

But walking pneumonia can still leave you feeling lousy. And it’s highly contagious. Here, pulmonologist Neal Chaisson, MD, explains how you can end up with this common respiratory infection and how it differs from regular pneumonia.

How do you catch walking pneumonia?

Walking pneumonia is often caused by bacteria or viruses. Most commonly a bacteria called mycoplasma pneumoniae is responsible for the infection. The infection is often caused by inhaling airborne droplets of water that are contaminated with the bacteria or virus when an infected person coughs or sneezes. These bacteria and viruses then infect your nose, throat, windpipe and lungs.

That’s why children and younger adults develop it most often — the infection spreads easily in crowded environments like schools and college dormitories. But walking pneumonia can also hit nursing homes.

You’ll usually start feeling symptoms within two weeks of exposure, but the bacteria can incubate for up to a month — and you’re contagious during that incubation period. Over about four days, the symptoms gradually worsen and include:

  • Sore throat.
  • Fever.
  • Persistent, dry cough.
  • Increased mucus.
  • Headaches.
  • Chest pain when breathing.
  • Violent cough.
  • Fatigue.

So how’s that different that regular pneumonia?

Pneumonia is generally a more serious lung infection. It can also be caused by bacteria or viruses (or rarely, fungi).

No matter the cause, the infection causes your immune system to fill the air sacs in the lungs with mucus, pus, and other fluids. This makes it difficult for oxygen to reach your blood.

Though the symptoms of bacterial pneumonia and viral pneumonia aren’t exactly the same, Dr. Chaisson says both tend to cause shortness of breath, difficulty breathing and feeling more tired than usual.

How are walking pneumonia and regular pneumonia treated?

For walking pneumonia, some doctors may evaluate your symptoms, assume that’s what you have and prescribe an antibiotic. But Dr. Chaisson doesn’t recommend that approach. “The vast majority of patients with these symptoms have something viral, such as an upper respiratory infection, sinus infection or bronchitis,” he explains. Such illnesses are treated with time, rest and symptom-relieving medication.

Dr. Chaisson cautions that antibiotic overuse can lead to antibiotic resistance and an outbreak of Clostridium difficile. C. difficile, an intestinal infection that causes diarrhea and abdominal pain, is difficult to treat and can lead to death — particularly in elderly patients.

That said, if your symptoms linger for longer than a few days or if you have a chronic health issue (like emphysema, asthma, diabetes, kidney disease or heart disease), it’s best to visit your doctor to see if you might have walking pneumonia.

Although walking pneumonia may go away on its own, antibiotics may be necessary. Walking pneumonia can be confirmed by a chest X-ray, which will show an area of infection in the lung.

Regular pneumonia, on the other hand, is often more severe, Dr. Chaisson says. “Regular pneumonia usually warrants antibiotics and sometimes patients are hospitalized because they require oxygen, IV fluids, and breathing treatments,” he says.

“No matter what type of pneumonia you have ― whether walking pneumonia or a more serious form ― it’s important not to try to rush your recovery,” Dr. Chaisson says. “Don’t push yourself too hard. Expect that it can take up to a few weeks until you’re up and running at full speed again.”

12 Signs Your Cold May be Pneumonia

If congestion and sneezing has you up to your ears in crinkled tissue and your nose is red and sore from all that nose-blowing, you may be well on your way to a common cold. But how can you be sure that your mild cold symptoms are not indicative of something more dangerous like pneumonia? And what are the signs of pneumonia? Learn the signs of pneumonia so you know what to look out for if your cold starts to take a sharp turn. Let’s start by first reviewing the symptoms of the common cold.

Unlike pneumonia, cold symptoms are usually fairly mild and short-lived. Once you are exposed to the cold virus, symptoms usually develop within 4 days. Initially, you may have a sore throat that is quickly followed by a runny nose, sneezing and a general feeling of malaise or tiredness. You may develop a mild cough that produces watery mucus, which may eventually change color and become thicker. You probably will not develop a fever; if you do, it may not be a cold, but the flu virus instead.

After about three days, your symptoms should start to subside, although you may feel congested for up to 10 days. There is no cure for the common cold, but rest, drinking plenty of clear fluids and over-the-counter pain relievers such as Tylenol or Motrin may be recommended by your physician to help you feel more comfortable as you recover.1 If you find you are not recovering as quickly as you typically do with a cold, look out for signs of infection, as well as the signs and symptoms of pneumonia. Here is what you should look out for.

Types of Pneumonia2

If you have an illness that started as a cold, but has progressed, you may be wondering, “What does pneumonia feel like?” It is a good idea to know the signs and symptoms of pneumonia in case you or someone you love develops it. Although coming down with a cold is usually no cause for alarm, it does weaken the immune system, which increases your risk for pneumonia. Additionally, infants, the elderly and people who have ongoing health conditions like COPD are at a higher risk for developing pneumonia.

Pneumonia is almost always caused by a virus or a bacterial infection. Viral pneumonia often begins as a cold or the flu, then develops into pneumonia. Symptoms of pneumonia caused by a virus come on more gradually and are usually milder than bacterial pneumonia. Bacterial pneumonia often occurs after a viral illness, but comes from common bacteria (usually streptococcus pneumoniae or mycoplasma pneumonia) that the body is unable to fight off because the previous illness lowered the immune system. In rare cases, pneumonia can also be caused by a fungus. When you catch pneumonia at school or work, it is called community-acquired pneumonia. If you get it from the hospital or a nursing home, it is called hospital or health-care acquired pneumonia.

Most of the time, milder forms of pneumonia (sometimes called “walking pneumonia”) can be treated at home under the care of your physician, and you will most likely improve in a few weeks. However, rest is essential to recovery, so do not push it. If you have pneumonia, it is important that you stay home and recover, even if it is a mild case. Viral pneumonia is quite contagious, but regardless of whether you could spread your infection, your body needs time to get better.
If your pneumonia symptoms are more severe and your doctor determines that you have bacterial pneumonia, they will likely prescribe antibiotics to treat the infection. Antibiotics are not effective for viral pneumonia, however, so you may be prescribed over-the-counter medications or antiviral agents if the cause of your pneumonia is viral. No matter what the cause or the severity, it is critical that you get plenty of rest and remain hydrated.

Symptoms That Differentiate Pneumonia from the Common Cold2

When you are looking at the signs and symptoms of pneumonia versus a cold, it is helpful to look at duration, severity and types of symptoms. Unlike pneumonia, cold symptoms often do not require that you stay home sick, and generally, the symptoms of a cold are not severe enough to warrant a call to your doctor. If your symptoms last longer than 10 days, come on suddenly and/or grow increasingly severe, you should contact your physician as soon as possible as you may have pneumonia. After reviewing the following 12 signs and symptoms of pneumonia, it should be easier for you to differentiate it from the symptoms of a common cold.
So what does pneumonia feel like?

  • Fever, often high
  • Shivering that may be accompanied by teeth-chattering chills
  • Cough that is likely to be worse than the mild cough you may experience with a cold
  • Mucus that may be rusty, green or blood-tinged
  • Shortness of breath
  • Rapid breathing
  • Rapid heart beat
  • Exhaustion or weakness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting, especially in small children
  • Diarrhea
  • Confusion, particularly in older people
  • Sharp pain in the chest that worsens when you take a deep breath or cough

Signs of Pneumonia in Small Children and Older Adults

If you see signs and symptoms of pneumonia in your small child, it is important to see your doctor right away. Pneumonia is the number one most common reason for children in the United States to be hospitalized, and is the world’s leading cause of death for children under 5 years old. If you have any doubts about whether your young child may have pneumonia, seek medical attention just in case.

Older people are at a higher risk of developing and dying from pneumonia. Symptoms of pneumonia in older adults may be different than those in their younger counterparts. They may be fewer or less severe,may not include a fever and a cough may not produce mucus. One of the primary symptoms of pneumonia in older folks is confusion or delirium. You may also see a bluish tinge to the lips and fingertips. Those with pre-existing lung conditions may become sicker faster than those with healthier lungs.

If you recognize any of the pneumonia warning signs mentioned above, contact your doctor as soon as possible for a thorough physical examination and diagnostic testing.

Frequently Asked Questions: Pneumonia or Cold?

What does it feel like when you have pneumonia?

If you have had a cold and suddenly feel really and truly sick, you may wonder, “What does pneumonia feel like?” Generally speaking, pneumonia feels pretty awful, and the signs and symptoms of pneumonia usually tell you that something is definitely wrong. You will experience pain when you breathe or cough, fever and chills, significant fatigue and shortness of breath. Even if you have mild or “walking” pneumonia, you will still feel pretty terrible. So, if you have a cold that takes a turn for the worse, see your doctor to get checked for pneumonia.

When should I call a doctor if I think it is pneumonia?
If you or a loved one has signs of pneumonia, make an appointment to see your doctor. Pneumonia can get worse quickly, and you will want to know what kind of pneumonia you have so you can treat it properly. If you or a loved one experience trouble breathing, have severe chest pain, a high fever or worsening symptoms, seek medical attention right away. If you or a loved one is in a high risk population, do not hesitate to seek medical attention, as pneumonia can develop into a life-threatening condition.

How is pneumonia diagnosed?
Your doctor will get a thorough medical history, including recent travel, occupation, exposure to illnesses and contact with animals in order to help determine whether your pneumonia could be bacterial, fungal or viral. Next, your doctor will listen to your lungs when you breathe to ascertain the amount of fluid buildup in the lungs. Finally, your doctor will likely order tests to finalize your diagnosis. Those tests could include blood tests, chest x-rays, pulse oximetry, sputum (mucus) tests and more. High risk groups may receive more in-depth testing, including checking their oxygen saturation.

1 WebMD. What are the Symptoms of a Cold? Reviewed March 28, 2013.

2 WebMD. What is pneumonia? March 17, 2011.

Additional Sources

Could You Have Walking Pneumonia? Here’s How to Tell

Walking pneumonia is a milder form of pneumonia that doesn’t knock you off your feet or send you to the hospital—or even home to bed.

“It means that people aren’t very sick,” Cedric “Jamie” Rutland, MD, a spokesperson for the American Lung Association, tells Health. “The cough might last six weeks, but people can still go to work, go to school, do their thing.”

Some people don’t even realize they’re sick, and even those who do often don’t think they have something as serious-sounding as pneumonia (which, by definition, means an infection in your lungs). Walking pneumonia (also called atypical or mycoplasma pneumonia) is often confused with other respiratory conditions including bronchitis, the flu, and the common cold.

There are some characteristics, though, that help distinguish this type of pneumonia from other conditions, including its more severe cousins.

“Walking pneumonia is usually spread in the late summer and early fall,” says Dr. Rutland, who is also an assistant clinical professor at the University of California, Riverside School of Medicine. Other respiratory illnesses tend to peak in the winter when everyone is clustered together indoors. Walking pneumonia is also more likely to strike children, who then bring it home and pass it to adults (lovely).

Most of the time, walking pneumonia is caused by a type of tiny bacteria called Mycoplasma pneumoniae, which typically results in less severe symptoms.

RELATED: Viral vs. Bacterial Pneumonia: What’s Really the Difference?

Coughing up a mix of mucus and saliva (aka sputum) can be a tip-off that you have pneumonia of some kind. “A cough with yellow, green, brown, or bloody sputum can be a sign that it is pneumonia, but it is not always a conclusive sign,” Susanna Von Essen, MD, professor of pulmonary medicine at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, tells Health. That cough may last several weeks, well after the infection itself is gone.

A fever is also an important clue—especially one over 100 or 101 degrees—that your symptoms are from pneumonia, says Dr. Von Essen. Then again, she adds, “some of the sickest patients do not have a fever at all.” The flu can also come with a fever.

Other walking pneumonia signs can include chills, pain when you cough or inhale deeply, a headache, a sore throat, fatigue, and loss of appetite. “Shortness of breath is also a key sign,” says Dr. Von Essen. “If people have that problem, they need to be evaluated by a medical professional.”

RELATED: 7 Kinds of Coughs and What They Might Mean

Generally speaking, walking pneumonia symptoms appear one to four weeks after you’ve been infected and can last a week to a month (or longer). Many cases of walking pneumonia go undiagnosed simply because the patient doesn’t know he or she is sick—or mistakes the symptoms for a cold. And, in fact, many cases of walking pneumonia get better on their own.

Sometimes, though, that persistent, nagging cough might eventually drive you to go see a doctor. You’ll usually get a physical exam and sometimes chest X-rays to diagnose walking pneumonia, and if it’s determined that you have it, you’ll typically be prescribed antibiotics.

You can also make yourself more comfortable with plenty of rest and lots of fluids. Over-the-counter antihistamines (for nasal congestion), cough medications, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (for pain and discomfort) may ease some symptoms, but always check with a doctor before giving any of these meds to a child.

If symptoms get worse instead of better, head to a doctor. In fact, it’s a good idea to head to a doctor any time you have a lingering cough, especially if you’re older. “If people are young and very healthy, it’s probably not as critical that they be seen right away,” says Dr. Von Essen. “But if they’re over 60 or 65, it can progress very fast. If you’re short of breath, if you feel dizzy when you stand, if you cough so much you can’t talk, it’s a good idea to be seen immediately.”

Although walking pneumonia usually isn’t life-threatening, it can be. It may also lead to meningitis (inflammation of the tissues lining the brain) or encephalitis (inflammation of the brain).

RELATED: Why Do Some People Die From Pneumonia?

Once you’re on antibiotics, you’re less likely to spread walking pneumonia to others, but pneumonia in any form (not to mention bronchitis, colds, and the flu) is easily transmissible through coughing and sneezing. Wash your hands regularly and avoid sharing cups, toothbrushes, and utensils so you don’t spread your germs to others.

If you do have walking pneumonia, just because you could walk around doesn’t mean you should. “You’re not doing the world a favor being out and about,” says Dr. Von Essen. “It’s good to stay home if you’re coughing or if you have a fever. You’ll probably get well faster.”

To get our top stories delivered to your inbox, sign up for the Healthy Living newsletter

What causes a cough after a cold?

Ask the doctor

Published: January, 2017

Q. I have a cough that has lasted for more than a month following a cold. Is there something I can do about this?

A. When your body is infected by one of the many viruses that cause the common cold, the infection is often eliminated in less than a week. However, the persistent post-infectious cough can last for up to two months. There are many treatment options to consider, but no one treatment has been shown to be effective.

Several factors lead to a persistent cough after a cold. A postnasal drip may irritate the upper airways, which are often more sensitive following an infection. When the airways are overly sensitive, even cold air or a small amount of dust may trigger the cough. Another consideration is the possibility of pertussis infection, also known as whooping cough. Pertussis affects both adults and children and it can often lead to a cough that lasts months. By the time the chronic cough appears, antibiotics are no longer effective for pertussis. I suggest every adult receive at least one booster of the pertussis vaccine combined with the tetanus and diphtheria vaccines (Tdap).

Treatment of the cough, no matter the source, is difficult. Over-the-counter and prescription drugs have some small benefits. If postnasal drip symptoms are prominent, antihistamines, such as chlorpheniramine (sold as Chlor-Trimeton and many other brands), may be effective. If wheezing is present, a bronchodilator inhaler like albuterol (Proventil, ProAir) or ipratropium (Atrovent) is recommended. Despite their common use, cough suppressants have little benefit.

Once the cough settles in, it often lasts four to eight weeks. Try to avoid forcing a cough, when possible, as this further irritates your airway and slows healing. When you feel a cough sensation, use a throat lozenge or drink more fluids to help decrease the frequency of coughing attacks.

—William Kormos, MD
Editor in Chief, Harvard Men’s Health Watch

As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date of last review on all articles. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.

Do you have a stubborn cough that isn’t going? It may be ‘seasonal’ bronchitis

Prevention surely helps. But acting fast on symptoms can help you overcome this breathing bother quickly.
Some health issues are unique to periods when seasons change and some others to the season itself. One such is seasonal bronchitis that can affect people of all ages and is more common during winter.
If you are having a cough that doesn’t seem to go away, bronchitis could be the reason.
Dr Prashant Shetty, executive director of the biochemistry, haematology and immunoassay department at iGenetic Diagnostics, Mumbai, said: “Seasonal bronchitis is swelling and reddening in your bronchial tree. Your bronchial tree consists of tubes, which carry air into your lungs, and if they get inflamed, eventually they swell and mucus (thick fluid) forms inside them and it becomes hard to breathe.”
According to Dr Ranganath R, consultant of pulmonology at Narayana Health City, Bengaluru, “there is no official term called seasonal bronchitis.” He said this term is used to describe conditions which are exacerbated during a few seasons; for example, asthma gets worsened during spring and winter. Chronic bronchitis worsens in winter and is sometimes called winter bronchitis. “Sometimes these seasonal variations are the initial or only manifestation of asthma, and patients are completely asymptomatic the rest of the year,” he added.
Getty Images
Seasonal bronchitis usually is caused by environmental changes and constant irritants such as smoking. It can be caused either by bacterial infection or by viruses or any exposure to substances that irritate the lungs such as dust, fumes, vapour and air pollution. It remains for a short time and can reoccur. If left untreated, it can lead to pneumonia and can inflame the lungs further, Shetty said.
In many cases, viral attacks could be the culprit. Dr Alok Kumar Dwivedi, consultant-paediatrics and neonatology, Cloudnine Group of Hospitals, Noida, said: “Seasonal bronchitis is commonly associated with viral infections. A small number of cases is due to bacteria like mycoplasma and pertussis. Risk factors are air pollution and tobacco smoke. In healthy children, complications are few whereas in undernourished children, ear infections, sinusitis (infection of the sinuses) and pneumonia are common.”
Symptoms of seasonal bronchitis are similar to some of the symptoms of asthma, pneumonia and other respiratory illness.
Ranganath said: “Usually, symptoms of bronchitis depending on individuals’ predisposition can be short-lived or prolonged. For example, if an individual with no allergic tendency or pre-existing lung pathology develops bronchitis, which is usually secondary to a viral infection, it would last for about a week or two. But for patients with allergic tendency, symptoms tend to last longer. Chronic bronchitis, a more serious condition, is a constant irritation or inflammation of the lining of airways, often due to smoking.”
Dwivedi explained that the symptoms of seasonal bronchitis are very different from chronic bronchitis. Frequent dry cough, chest discomfort, wheezing, shortness of breath, low-grade fever or no fever indicate that the person is suffering from seasonal bronchitis. Some of the symptoms also include body aches, runny, stuffy nose and sore throat.
Chronic bronchitis in adults is defined as three months or more of productive cough each year for two or more consecutive years, he said.

Pneumonia, Strep Throat & Seasonal Influenza: Know The Different Types Of Winter Fever

Play Slideshow

Knowing The Winter Fever

16 Jan, 2019 Sore throat, itchy nose, sneeze, ceaseless cough and common cold troubling you? Blame it on the changing season. This sudden fluctuatiion in season can result in various viral infections, flus and poor health conditions. Many people don’t know the difference between cold, flu, and influenza. Dr Kavita Ramanathan, Senior Pathologist at iGenetic Diagnostics, talks about many diseases that cause fever during winter.
Bronchitis is very common and is caused by cold, flu and viral infection. It may also be called a chest cold. It is worse than a normal cold but not as bad as pneumonia. Pneumonia is a lung infection, which can make you really sick. You can have cough with fever and you may have a hard time breathing. For most people, pneumonia can be treated at home. But some babies and old people may need to be hospitalised, iGenetic’s Shetty explained.
However, acute bronchitis is a frequent dry cough of relatively gradual onset of 3-4 days after appearance of rhinitis and absence of fever or mild-grade fever. Depending upon the severity, other symptoms could be chest pain, loss of appetite and bluish tint to the nail and lips. Pneumonia symptoms can be mild or severe based on what causes it — your age and overall health. Cough, fever, shortness of breath, headache and chest pain are some of the symptoms of pneumonia. One must consult a doctor if fever and other symptoms persist, Dwivedi said.
Acute bronchitis is more often secondary to viral infection and flu. Vaccine decreases the chances of viral infection. Avoiding cigarette smoke (active and passive) is imperative as smoking increases the risk of respiratory infections. Pollution, fumes, strong smells like paints, etc., should be avoided and washing hands regularly is recommended, said Ranganath of Narayana.
In addition to avoiding exposure to air pollution, Dwivedi said, moving around crowded places and cigarette smoking are a no-no.
Dwivedi said there is no specific therapy for treatment. However, taking rest, having paracetamol for fever or aches or sore throat, taking cough medicine especially if antihistamines and expectorant are not helpful will help. Antibiotics generally should not be used except in cases caused by bacteria. Only patients with recurrent episodes may need antibiotics.
It is important to treat the underlying cause, Ranganath said. If it is acute bronchitis with no allergic tendency or preexisting lung disease, most of the times it is self-limiting and only supportive therapy — like steam inhalation, saltwater gargles, antipyretics such as paracetamol and cough suppressants — is needed. If seasonal bronchitis symptoms are an exacerbation of underlying asthma or chronic bronchitis, then it needs proper evaluation and optimisation of the underlying condition.
Frequent handwashing is recommended if a person is diagnosed with bronchitis.

Be Cautious This Season: Superfoods To Boost Immunity And Keep You Healthy

Play Slideshow

Immunity-Boosting Foods

25 Jan, 2018Monsoon is here and so are the diseases. The change in season can result in various viral infections, flus and poor health conditions. The tricky season can lead to various health problems like sore throat, itchy nose, sneeze, ceaseless cough, common cold, and many water-borne diseases like typhoid, gastroenteritis, food poisoning, diarrhoea, malaria and dengue. While regular exercising and staying hydrated is important, it is crucial to consume the right foods to strengthen your immunity and beat the illness this season. Dolly Kumar, founder and director of Gaia; Eesha Kanade, Obino’s health coach; Luke Coutinho, MD in alternative medicine & holistic nutritionist; and holistic health guru Dr Mickey Mehta share a list of best immunity-boosting foods that will keep you healthy.

Chest Cold

  1. What is a chest cold?
  2. Symptoms
  3. Causes
  4. Diagnosis
  5. Treatment
  6. Home remedies
  7. Prevention
  8. Complications
  9. FAQs

What is a chest cold?

A chest cold, or acute bronchitis, is a condition affecting the bronchial tubes of the lungs, causing short-term inflammation and irritation of these airways. Common symptoms include a persistent cough, shortness of breath and fatigue.

Most often developing out of respiratory infections such as flu or a common cold, chest colds are caused – in most cases – by the same set of viruses as cause the common cold. In rare cases, a chest cold can also be caused by a bacterial infection.

Most people find that a chest cold clears up in two to three weeks, without the need for treatment. In severe cases or when the symptoms do not subside in the normal timeframe, doctors will recommend treatment options.

A chest cold is generally considered to be a non-serious condition. However, there is a risk that a chest cold will develop into pneumonia – a more serious condition. A persistent chest cold may also be diagnosed as chronic bronchitis, a long-term condition that cannot be fully cured. If you think that you may be experiencing a chest cold, a symptom assessment using the free Ada app may be able to help.

Acute bronchitis vs. chronic bronchitis

Chronic bronchitis differs from acute bronchitis by its persistent nature. Acute bronchitis, which shares the same symptoms as chronic bronchitis, is a short-term condition that typically fades in two to three weeks, whereas chronic bronchitis is a permanent or constantly recurring condition, most often caused by smoking or the inhalation of irritants or dust. To be classed as chronic bronchitis, a cough must be present for a minimum of three months in each of two consecutive years and all other possible causes ruled out.

Read more about Chronic Bronchitis

Symptoms of a chest cold

The main symptom of a chest cold is a cough, which will often be persistent and accompanied by the coughing up of mucus. The production of excess mucus is normal during a chest cold – a response designed to protect the respiratory tract from germs and bacteria. Other symptoms may include:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Aches and pains
  • Other symptoms associated with a cold or flu

The cough associated with a chest cold will typically take two to three weeks to disappear completely. If you are experiencing any symptoms of a chest cold, try using the free Ada app to carry out a symptom assessment.

Causes of a chest cold

A chest cold can be either a viral or bacterial infection, though it is far more common to contract the condition virally. The viruses that cause the condition are of the same variety as those that cause the common cold or flu, and it usually develops from these conditions. If a cold or flu seems to worsen, therefore, it may be that a chest cold has developed.

The viruses that cause a chest cold are most commonly passed on through tiny droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks. The virus can survive on a surface such as a countertop or door-handle, for example, for up to 24 hours. To help avoid infection, individuals should take measures such as washing their hands thoroughly and avoiding sharing drinking glasses and utensils.

Diagnosing a chest cold

Doctors will usually be able to diagnose a chest cold by asking some questions about a person’s symptoms and by performing a physical examination. In some cases, a doctor may order further tests to diagnose the condition or distinguish it from other conditions. These tests include:

  • Pulmonary function test: Used to check for signs of asthma or emphysema.
  • Sputum tests: Used to identify the bacteria within sputum (mucus).
  • X-ray: Potentially useful in identifying the source of an individual’s symptoms.

Chest cold treatment

A chest cold does not require treatment in all cases – it will normally begin to fade in two to three weeks,** though the cough may persist for longer.

If the coughing is particularly severe, cough medication is available over the counter, or it may be prescribed by a doctor. Pain relievers such as ibuprofen and paracetamol can be taken to suppress pain. For those with allergies, asthma or chronic obtrusive pulmonary disease, a range of medications can be prescribed as needed.

As a chest cold is in most cases caused by a virus, antibiotics are useless and may even be harmful. However, if it is thought that a chest cold is bacterial in origin, antibiotics can be used to effectively treat the condition.

Chest cold home remedies

Although treatment may not be necessary for a chest cold, there are a range of home remedies that can be used to manage its symptoms. Some of the most common home remedies include:

  • Rest: Rest is vital in order to help the immune system regain its strength.
  • Hydration: Drinking plenty of water helps thin out the mucus in the chest, making it easier to cough up.
  • Hot drinks and lozenges: Drinks such as tea with honey and over-the-counter lozenges can provide some relief from certain symptoms.
  • Steam: Steam from a hot shower or towel can help dislodge mucus and relieve symptoms.

There are many natural products which can effectively help alleviate the symptoms of a chest cold. These include:

  • Apple cider vinegar: Raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar helps thin the mucus in the chest, which can reduce congestion and help a person with a chest cold to breathe better. Drinking a solution of warm water mixed with two teaspoons of apple cider vinegar two or three times a day for a week will help reduce the duration of a chest cold and strengthen the immune system, preventing future colds.
  • Turmeric: Tumeric, a plant and spice that grows in Southeast-Asian and Middle-Eastern countries, is very effective at reducing the symptoms of a chest cold. It contains the compound curcumin, which has antiviral, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. Adding around a teaspoon of raw, grated turmeric or powdered tumeric to a hot drink several times a day or using it to flavour food can help alleviate the symptoms of a chest cold.
  • Ginger: Ginger has been used as a natural remedy to treat various conditions for over 2000 years and is an effective agent in reducing the inflammation in the chest caused by a chest cold. It can be added to food in its raw state, brewed as a tea or taken as supplements.
  • Essential oils: There are many different types of essential oils, each of which are particularly helpful with alleviating the symptoms of a different array of conditions. The most helpful essential oils for treating a chest cold include frankincense, oregano, eucalyptus, tea tree and lemon. Essential oils can be added to a hot compress, bath water, dabbed on the neck and temples or administered using a vaporiser/diffuser. When using essential oils to treat a chest cold, always consult the instructions on the packaging for the most appropriate way to apply them.

Some herbal remedies and supplements are not compatible with underlying conditions or prescription medications. If, in addition to their chest cold, a person has a chronic (ongoing) condition and/or regularly takes any medications, they should consult their doctor before using any new natural products.

Chest cold prevention

The viruses that in most cases cause a chest cold can be hard to avoid, spread as they are by tiny, often undetectable droplets released into the air or onto surfaces. However, certain measures can be taken to try and avoid these viruses. They include:

  • Washing hands frequently and thoroughly
  • Getting plenty of rest
  • Avoiding excessive touching of the eyes or mouth
  • Avoiding sharing things such as drinking glasses or utensils
  • Staying healthy with regular exercise, enough fluids and a balanced diet
  • Getting vaccines for pneumonia, flu and whooping cough

Chest cold complications

Complications that can develop from a chest cold include:

  • Pneumonia: The symptoms of pneumonia are typically similar to those of a chest cold, though may be more severe. The condition is easily treatable with antibiotics, though it is important that it is distinguished from a chest cold first. Elderly people, smokers and those with preexistent liver or kidney conditions are most at risk from contracting pneumonia. Read more about Pneumonia ”
  • Chronic bronchitis: A permanent condition typically caused by smoking or exposure to airborne irritants. A persistent cough, lasting for at least three months in two consecutive years, is the chief symptom of chronic bronchitis. A doctor should be able to diagnose the condition. Read more about Chronic Bronchitis ”

Chest cold FAQs

Q: What is the duration of a chest cold?
A: Typically, a chest cold will develop three or four days after a cold or the flu and lasts for around two to three weeks. However, this is approximate and symptoms may last for longer. If this is the case, medical attention should be sought.

Q: I am pregnant. Should I be worried about a chest cold?
A: Special care should be taken by pregnant women to avoid a chest cold. However, if the condition does develop, women should be sure to consult a doctor who should be able to advise on an appropriate treatment method, if one is needed at all, including identifying medications that are safe to take during pregnancy.

Unfortunately, when pregnant, a chest cold is more likely to develop into a more serious respiratory condition like pneumonia. Seek urgent medical attention if the following symptoms develop:

  • Chest pain
  • Blood in the mucus
  • High fever
  • Unrelenting shortness of breath

Read more about possible Pregnancy Complications “

Q: Is a chest cold contagious?
A: Yes, the viruses that typically cause chest colds, are contagious. Avoid contact with infected individuals, wash your hands regularly and avoid sharing utensils and glasses to lessen the chances of picking up the condition.

Q: Are chest colds viral or bacterial?
A: In approximately 85 to 95 percent of cases, acute bronchitis is caused by a virus. The viruses are the same as those that cause the common cold and flu. People with underlying health conditions, such as streptococcus pneumoniae, haemophilus influenzae and moraxella catarrhalis, are more likely than otherwise healthy people to experience bacterial acute bronchitis.

Q: Can a chest cold turn into pneumonia?
A: Pneumonia can result from a chest cold as a secondary complication. Older people are especially susceptible to this. Symptoms of pneumonia include fever, an increased heart rate, chest pain and shortness of breath.

Read more about pneumonia “

  1. UpToDate. “Acute bronchitis in adults (Beyond the basics).” Accessed September 11, 2017. ↩ ↩

  2. MedlinePlus. “Chronic Bronchitis.” April 21, 2017. Accessed August 11, 2017. ↩

  3. Patient. “Acute Bronchitis.” September 23, 2016. Accessed September 11, 2017. ↩

  4. NHS Choices. “Bronchitis – Causes.” August 3, 2017. Accessed August 11, 2017. ↩

  5. Lung. “Diagnosing and Treating Acute Bronchitis.” Accessed August 11, 2017. ↩

  6. American Family Physician. “Diagnosis and Management of Acute Bronchitis.” May, 2002. Accessed August 11, 2017 ↩

  7. Patient. “Acute Bronchitis.” September 23, 2016. Accessed September 11, 2017. ↩

  8. WebMD. “Cough Relief: How to Lose a Bad Cough?” Accessed August 11, 2017. ↩

  9. Healthline. “Acute Bronchitis: Symptoms, Causes, Treatment, and More.” March 2, 2017. Accessed August 10, 2017. ↩

  10. NHS Choices. “Bronchitis – Complications of bronchitis.” August 3, 2016. Accessed August 11, 2017. ↩

  11. Healthline. “How to Prevent and Treat Bronchitis When Pregnant.” December 15, 2015. Accessed August 11, 2017. ↩

  12. NCBI. “Acute bronchitis.” February, 2008. Accessed July 13, 2018. ↩

About the author

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *