What is a Chest Infection?
A chest infection is a infection that affects the lower part of the respiratory tract. This includes the windpipe, bronchi, and lungs. Depending on the nature of chest infections they can be either mild in nature which could clear up on their own, or can be severe and life threatening.
Types of Chest Infections
Chest infections are of three types based on the part of the respiratory system that is infected.
Large airways infection – Bronchitis
Small airways infection – Bronchiolitis
Lung tissue infection – Pneumonia
Causes of Chest Infections
Bacteria, mycobacteria, viruses and fungi predominantly causes chest infections. Factors such as malnutrition, advanced age, smoking, immunodeficiency and neurological conditions increase the vulnerability to infection.
What Chest infections need Antibiotics
Antibiotics are to treat ONLY bacterial and mycobacterial infections.
Treating viral chest infections, like flu or viral bronchitis or fungal chest infections with antibiotics does not aid in fighting the infection. This is because antibiotics do not work for viral infections or for most fungal infections.
Bacterial Pneumonia is inflammation of the lungs due to bacterial microorganisms. This infection can infect both lungs, one lung, or one section of a lung.
Chest pain, shortness of breath, a cough that may produce yellow or green mucus, fever, tiredness, chills are symptoms that are commonly associated with Bacterial Pneumonia.
One of the foremost ways to prevent bacterial pneumonia is by preserving the strength of the immune system. That includes intake of healthy foods, obtaining enough rest, and frequent hand-washing.
Infections exacerbating respiratory disease
Individuals with chronic lung disease are at increased of infections with micro-organsism, particularly bacteria and viruses. Usually these infections result in worsening of baseline symptoms. For example, by increasing the volume of phlegm, changing the colour of the phlegm, and worsening breathlessness or fatigue. In these cases it is always beneficial to have a high index of suspicion for bacterial infections unless a viral prodrome is identified clearly and antibiotics should be initiated promptly.
What happens if you treat non-bacterial infection with Antibiotics
The intake of Antibiotics for viral and fungal infections can carry detrimental effects to the overall health,the immune system, and the body’s resident bacterial flora (good bacteria)
Nausea (feeling like you may vomit), diarrhoea, bloating, indigestion, abdominal pain and loss of appetite are side-effects that occur due to fallacious intake of antibiotics.
Alternative treatments for Chest Infections
Apart from administering Antibiotics there are various other methods to overcome infections in the chest.
Viral Chest infections will resolve on its own and no specific treatment is needed. In the cases of infection with influenza in high risk individuals, specific anti-viral medication can be given early on the course of the disease. This is reduce the duration of illness. General measures to treat viral infections include rest and good hydration. If the Chest infection is due to fungi, it should be treated with antifungal drugs recommended by a specialist. Mycobacterial infections also require specialist input as these infections require a combination of several antibiotics for a long duration of 18 months or more.
Home remedies for Chest Infections
Home remedies can be useful in order to ease symptoms of Chest infection through a healthy lifestyle. This is by getting plenty of rest, drinking lots of fluids, avoiding lying flat when sleeping, inhaling steam and avoiding smoking. These Home remedies ensure an enhanced health system despite the nature of the infection.
However, if symptoms are prolonged for a wide period of time, or concerning, consultation with a respiratory infection specialist is recommen