What is a chest cold?

The term “chest cold” is commonly used to refer to a contagious disease called acute bronchitis. Acute bronchitis is a disease of the lower respiratory tract in the lungs. A chest cold or acute bronchitis is most often caused by a viral infection, such as influenza or an upper respiratory infection that spreads to the lungs. This results in inflammation of the bronchi and bronchioles, small hollow passageways in the lungs through which air moves during breathing.

Infection and inflammation of the bronchi and the bronchioles leads to symptoms of a chest cold that typically include a wet cough that produces white or yellow phlegm, shortness of breath, and fever.

Chest colds are common and can occur at any time of the year, although most cases happen during the winter months. Chest colds are most common in infants, young children, and older adults. People at risk for developing a chest cold include smokers and people who are exposed to air pollution or lung irritants or have diseases of the lungs.

A chest cold is generally treatable with a multifaceted treatment plan. Treatment plans vary depending on your medical history.

In some cases, a chest cold can lead to pneumonia, which can be serious, even life threatening. Seek prompt medical care if you have symptoms of a chest cold, such as fever and a wet cough that produces white or yellow phlegm. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you, or someone you are with, have moderate to severe shortness of breath, bluish coloration of the lips or fingernails, or a change in level of consciousness or alertness.

SYMPTOMS

What are the symptoms of a chest cold?

The symptoms of a chest cold are caused by inflammation of the airways of the lungs (bronchi and bronchioles) due to infection or irritation.

How severe your chest cold symptoms are depends on your age, general health, and medical history. In generally healthy adults, symptoms of a chest cold may be relatively mild. Symptoms are often more severe in people who have chronic illness... Read more about chest coldsymptoms

CAUSES

What causes a chest cold?

Chest colds are most often caused by a viral infection, such as influenza or an upper respiratory infection that spreads to the lungs. Chest colds can also be caused by pollutants in the air and, rarely, a bacterial infection.

A chest cold caused by an infection generally spreads from person to person when someone with the disease coughs, talks or sneezes. This shoots contaminated... Read more about chest coldcauses

TREATMENTS

How is a chest cold treated?

The goals of the treatment of a chest cold include minimizing the risk of developing pneumonia and controlling symptoms to allow for sufficient rest to recover. Mild cases of a chest cold that occur in generally healthy older children and adults may be treated at home. Moderate to severe cases of a chest cold or cases in infants, older adults, or in people with chronic diseases may require hosp... Read more about chest coldtreatments

Medical Reviewer: Cynthia Haines, MD Last Annual Review Date: Aug 1, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

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