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Chest Cold

Overview of a Chest Cold

A chest cold is also known as Bronchitis and occurs when the lining of your bronchial tubes becomes inflamed. People with a chest cold may also experience coughing up thick, discolored mucus. A chest cold usually develops as a result of a cold or another respiratory infection. Symptoms usually improve within 7-10 days, but in some cases may last for weeks.

Symptoms of a Chest Cold

Some symptoms may include: coughing, coughing up mucus, fatigue, shortness of breath, chest discomfort, fever, headache, and child. These symptoms will usually clear up within a week, but in some cases, may last for several weeks.

You will need to see your physician if your chest cold: lasts longer than three weeks, prevents you from sleeping, produces blood, causes you to wheeze or you are short of breath, or if you have a fever higher than 100.4 degrees.

Causes of a Chest Cold

The cause of a chest cold is typically because of an irritant in the air, such as cigarette smoke, air pollution, dust, or toxic gases. The other main cause of the chest cold is from a virus, such as the cold or the flu.

Risk Factors of a Chest Cold

There are a variety of reasons that may cause you to be at a higher risk for a chest cold, or bronchitis. The most common risk factor of the chest cold is being around cigarette smoke. People who smoke or who live with a smoker are at a higher risk for bronchitis. Another reason is a suppressed immune system. Infants, older people, and people with an already suppressed immune system typically have a harder time getting better, and because of this, may develop a chest cold. People that work in dangerous or unhealthy environments may also have a higher risk of developing a chest cold, as they are exposed to many irritants at work. People with gastric reflux also have a higher chance of developing a chest cold.

How to Prevent a Chest Cold

The first tip is to avoid cigarette smoke. If you are a smoker, then you will need to quit immediately. If you live with someone that smokes, then take the necessary steps to avoid cigarette smoke. Vaccinations will also help you stay healthy, which will greatly reduce your risk of developing a chest cold. When people around you are sick, it is a good idea to wear a surgical mask and to frequently wash your hands. If you work in a hazardous environment, then you should also wear a mask to prevent yourself from breathing in the irritants in the air.

Diagnosing a Chest Cold

Diagnosis during the first few days of sickness may be difficult as the symptoms present themselves as a common cold. The first step of diagnosis is an exam with your physician. Your physician will begin by asking about the other symptoms that may also be occurring. Then the physician will listen to your chest. After this is complete, your physician may also recommend a variety of tests. A chest x-ray may be ordered. This x-ray will show if there is a condition that is causing your cough, such as pneumonia. A chest x-ray is essential if you are or have been a smoker. If you are able to cough up mucus, then it may be sent to the lab to see if you have an illness that an antibiotic can cure. This can also be tested for allergies.  Lastly, your physician may recommend a pulmonary function test. A pulmonary function test can see how much air your lungs hold and how quickly you are able to breathe it all out. This can check for asthma and emphysema.

Treatment of a Chest Cold

A chest cold can typically get better on its own, but sometimes treatment is necessary. Since most cases are from a viral infection, an antibiotic may not be effective. Your physician may recommend a cough medicine, which may be particularly useful at night. Most of the time, coughing presents itself while lying down. Your physician will also recommend medications based on the cause of the chest cold. For example, if allergies are to blame, then your physician will decide which medication will be best for you. Or if chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is the diagnosis, then your physician may recommend an inhaler or other medications that will help in reducing inflammation.

If the chest cold turns into chronic bronchitis, then pulmonary rehabilitation will also be beneficial. During pulmonary rehabilitation, a therapist will teach you how to breathe and will increase your ability to breathe.

The best treatment for a chest cold is to first take preventative measures to avoid getting sick. Then once you know what your triggers are, then you will need to treat them. For example, if a pollen allergy is a reason for the chest cold, then you will need to take medications for this, and you will also need to avoid going outside during times in which pollen counts are high.

Home Remedies for a Chest Cold

There are many steps that you can take in an effort to stay well. If you smoke, then you will need to quit immediately. If you have been unsuccessful in the past, then ask your pulmonologist for help and advice on how to be successful this time. You will also need to avoid irritants in the air at work. If you are not able to completely avoid the irritants, then you will want to wear a mask at work. At home, it is also best to use a humidifier. A humidifier will help to relieve your cough and loosen the mucus in the airways. When using a humidifier, it is also important to clean regularly, or it will lead to even more problems. If the cold air is a trigger to your symptoms, try to stay indoors as much as possible. If this is not possible, then you should wear a cold air mask before you go outside.