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 hospitalization.

Treatment of a chest cold caused by a bacterial infection includes antibiotic medications. Antibiotics are not effective for treating a chest cold caused by a virus.    

Treatment of a chest cold generally includes:

  • Antibiotic medications for bacterial chest cold. Intravenous administration of antibiotics may be needed in moderate to severe cases or for infants and people with chronic diseases.

  • Bronchodilators may be prescribed to help ease breathing and relieve shortness of breath. Bronchodilators relax and open up the lower airways in the lungs and are inhaled using a device called an inhaler.

  • Cool-mist vaporizer

  • Drinking plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration. Intravenous administration of fluids may be needed to prevent or treat dehydration.

  • Intubation of the airway with a breathing tube and mechanical ventilation in severe cases in which pneumonia, hypoxia, respiratory failure, and shock occur or are likely to occur

  • Medications to relieve fever

  • Oxygen therapy is given through nasal prongs or a mask to relieve the shortness of breath and ensure that the vital organs, such as the heart and the brain, get enough oxygen. Concentrations of oxygen and the types of devices used vary depending on the severity of an individual’s condition.

  • Rest

  • Thick phlegm may need to be medically suctioned.

What are the possible complications of a chest cold?

Pneumonia is a serious complication of a chest cold most likely to occur in infants, young children, older adults, and people with chronic heart and lung diseases. In some cases, pneumonia can result in possible life-threatening complications, such as:

  • Acute respiratory distress syndrome

  • Dehydration

  • Empyema

  • Hypoxia

  • Lung abscess

  • Pleural effusion

  • Respiratory failure and respiratory arrest             

  • Sepsis

  • Shock


  1. Acute Bronchitis. American Lung Association.
  2. Acute Bronchitis.
  3. Diagnosis and Treatment of Acute Bronchitis. American Family Physician.

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 hol... Read more about chest coldintroduction


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


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

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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