A virus or bacterial infection usually causes chest infections, in the form of bronchitis or pneumonia. If the infection is mild, you can usually treat it in a similar way to a cold and recover at home. However, with a bout of severe pneumonia, you probably will need a hospital stay and intravenous antibiotics. Untreated pneumonia can lead to complications, including respiratory failure, which can be fatal, according to the NHS.
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Rest at home for as long as you need to. Give yourself permission to stay off work and school, and stay warm in bed when recovering from a chest infection. If you have a partner or family, leave the cooking and other household tasks to them. If you live alone, ask a friend or neighbour to shop for you.
Drink lots of fluids. This can help in two ways: it prevents dehydration and can also thin the sticky mucus in your lungs and enable you to cough it up much more easily.
Treat your symptoms, such as headaches and joint aches, with painkillers such as aspirin. The jury is out about the efficacy of cough mixtures, says the NHS, so you might prefer a simple hot water, honey and lemon mix. Lozenges can help with a sore throat that often comes with a chest infection.
Stop smoking, and encourage the people you live with to stop smoking around you, too. Cigarette smoke aggravates a cough, so put your health first.
Finish any course of medication that you are on when recovering from a chest infection. For example, a severe bout of bronchitis or pneumonia might need a course of antibiotics. Do not stop after a few days even if you are beginning to feel better.
Breathe in warm air, so make sure that your bedroom is sufficiently heated. A cold house with dry air will not help your recovery.
Tips and warnings
- Wash your hands regularly, and cover your mouth when you cough to reduce the possibility of passing the infection on to other people.
- Keep a special eye on babies, young people and the elderly as they are the most vulnerable to chest infections.
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