We live in an environment which is constantly changing. The air quality index is continuously becoming bad. The risks of living and inhaling this air are too many. We are living in clouds of diseases. This pollution and unfiltered air particles are responsible for so many complications. Chest infection is one of them.
Chest Infection: Symptoms, Home Remedies, and Recovery
Chest infection is an infection of the airway or respiratory tract and lungs. When we inhale air it passes through the mouth to the trachea and reaches the lungs via bronchial tubes. Our lungs are filled with balloon-like structures known as alveolus. These alveolar structures have a thin membrane lining and are responsible for the exchange of gases in our body. This is the normal mechanism of air exchange. Any infection that affects this normal pathway is a chest infection
What is Chest Infection?
Chest infection is a problematic respiratory pathway. A chest infection can lead to swelling of the respiratory tract and lungs. This swelling results in constricted breathing. Sometimes there may be a pain. The common characteristics and identifying a feature of chest infection is mucus. There is excess mucus formation which may restrict the breathing pathways leading to the problem. There is also swelling and formation of pus in certain cases. Chest infections can occur any time in any season but are common in spring and winter. One most common cause of chest infection is weak immunity.
Chest infections are usually airborne in nature. When an already affected person with some infectious agent in their sputum sneezes or coughs, the infectious agent is released in the environment. They may remain dormant i.e. in a rest phase for a particular period of time. When these droplets are inhaled by a healthy person the disease develops in them too.
Chest infections are mostly spread via droplets. The cause of chest infections can vary. Most cases have been reported to have a viral cause. The causes can be :
- Virus: Viruses that affect your respiratory tract can last for up to 3 weeks. Viral infections generally get cured on their own. Viruses take over the host body and divide. It is therefore hard to remove a viral infection via medication. The virus leaves the body automatically after a few weeks.
- Bacteria: Bacterial diseases are less common but they also occur in the respiratory tract. Bacterial infections can be for a shorter duration. Usually, they last for a few days. Anti-bacterial medicines are available that can help cure the disease faster.
- Other causes: Immunity is also one of an important reason for chest infections. People with weak immunity like those suffering from HIV or AID’S have weak immunity. This makes them easy targets for even less pathogenicity. These individuals are highly prone to any viral or bacterial exposure.
Types of chest infection
Chest infection as we talked about above can be either viral or bacterial. The viral infections most commonly lead to pneumonia. On the other hand, bacterial infections most commonly lead to bronchitis.
- Pneumonia: Pneumonia is a viral chest infection which affects the lungs. It can be viral or bacterial. In rare cases, it can be fungal. According to the data, 30% reported cases of pneumonia are due to viruses. Viruses such as influenza A and B, RSV and pinkeye virus are responsible for pneumonia. People suffering from pneumonia have symptoms of high fever, chills, dry cough, congestion and high breathing rate. Pus formation in the lungs is also seen in pneumonia.
- Bronchitis: Bronchitis is the infection of bronchi. In this case, bronchi become irritant. There is severe cough. The eyes become itchy and watery. Colour change is clearly visible in mucus. There is a sore throat and may be persistent pain along with it. It gets better in most cases in a few days. Fluid intake has to be increased. The mucus must be let out of the system. This is generally bacteria caused disease that’s why it can be treated by antibiotics in severe cases.
There may be many visible symptoms of a chest infection. These symptoms may vary on the basis of severity and duration of there occurrence. Some of these symptoms are:
- Change in colour of mucus
- Fever and chills
- Chest congestion
- Difficulty breathing
- Watery eyes
- Itchy nose
- Tiredness and fatigue
Symptoms may be seen in the individual of any age. Old, adult or children anyone can be infected. Rest and increased fluid intake work best. There are some home remedies which are commonly used in chest infections which are efficient too. Some of them are the use of ginger, Tulsi and honey.
Although chest infections are not dangerous in their early stages, they can become life-threatening if not treated properly. Chest infections can become severe and lead to diseases like tuberculosis or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. These conditions are serious and must be given immediate medical attention. When infection remains for a long time, the viruses or bacteria keeps multiplying within and causes disease.
COPD ( chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder) is caused due to long term accumulation and growth of mucus or infection in the respiratory pathway. The lungs start becoming constricted. Air sacs start destructing and reducing in size. This leads to a problem in breathing. Tabaco smoking increases the risk of having COPD.
Tuberculosis is caused by a bacteria known as Mycobacterium tubercle. This bacteria leads to inflammation on the air sacs. Cough with blood is a symptom. There is a weakness in the body. There’s a course called Dots which has to be completed to treat this disease.
Chest infection Don’t usually need any diagnosis as the symptoms are very clearly visible. Although in certain complications there must be a requirement of certain tests.
Chest X-RAY is done to check the congestion in the airway. It can be done to see which parts of the lungs are affected and which parts are not. This can also be used to find out about the cases of pleural effusion which is a watery substance that gets filled in the pleural layer that is the outlines of the lungs.
Sputum testing is also performed as a diagnostic technique. The sputum sample is stained and cultured. It is used to identify the particular bacteria responsible for the disease or infection. This can help is better treatment with specific medications.
Proper treatment is necessary to avoid other complications. In the worst case scenario, there may be sepsis i.e. the spread of bacteria or virus to the blood and then other organs. This can be avoided by proper treatment.
There are many preventive measures that can help to avoid chest infections. Chest infections occur due to inhaling bacteria, virus or fungus. If the ingestion or inhalation is avoided, there will be fewer chances of having an infection. Some preventive measures are washing handing properly before and after every meal. Keeping the devices you use frequently clean. Try using a face mask in populated areas. Reduce handshakes with unknown people. Smoking tobacco must be prohibited. If the disease is due to the area of your work, there needs to be a change as soon as possible.
If you are infected, you need to dispose of the waste properly. Always sneeze with a hand or handkerchief on your mouth. Whenever you cough through the tissue at the proper place. Do not leave your belongings anywhere.
Prevention can be the key to good health. Just proper attention and care towards certain things can lead to a disease-free life.