What is a chest cold?
The term chest cold is actually used in reference to an illness called acute bronchitis. This is a potentially serious condition in which a respiratory tract infection spreads to the lungs, causing inflammation of the bronchial tubes. This swelling comes in concert with mucus production, causing the patient to cough and feel pressure or soreness of the chest. In most cases, a chest cold is caused by one of many different kinds of viruses including the cold virus or influenza virus. It is also possible, however, for a chest cold to occur as a result of bacteria or airborne pollutants. Chest colds are most common in groups of people whose immune function may be compromised, including babies, young children, and older adults.
Signs and symptoms of chest cold
- Frequent cough that produces mucus, especially 3-4 days after you symptoms begin
- Chest pain, pressure or soreness
- Extreme fatigue and lack of energy
- Mild persistent headache
- Body aches
- A fever of under 102°F
- Watery eyes
- Sore throat
- Wheezing or difficulty breathing
Treatment and relief
The most important part of treating a chest cold is relieving your symptoms and preventing a worsening of your condition, which could lead to pneumonia or pertussis (whooping cough). For healthy adults and children, treatment for a chest cold can usually take place in bed at home, while infants and the elderly may need to be hospitalized.
Here are the best ways to alleviate your chest cold symptoms:
Get some rest
Keep your body’s energy reserved as much as possible for fighting your infection by keeping warm and rested. Make sure you’re bundled up and avoid physical exertion. When you do sleep, try propping up your head, or even your whole upper body, in bed, to help relieve nasal congestion. Take time off from your exercise routine to let you body use its energy on fighting your chest cold.
Try a salt gargle
To ease the pain of a scratchy or sore throat, mix up a half-teaspoon of table salt in a glass of warm water and gargle for 10 seconds. Repeat as necessary.
This is an important measure to take when fighting a chest cold, and is also one of the simplest. Consuming adequate liquids is essential to fending off the sickness, so be sure to drink no less than ten eight-ounce glasses of fluids each day. Some great ways to get in those fluids include: diluted juice, hot water with lemon and honey, herbal teas and ginger ale. Chicken soup or broth, is another great way to hydrate and hot liquids also help relieve nasal congestion.
Drinks to avoid include coffee, black tea, caffeinated soft drinks and alcohol. These drinks, especially in excess, will act as diuretics and dehydrate you. However, a single shot of whiskey or tequila with hot water, honey and lemon can be helpful at bedtime.
Luckily, there are ways that you can avoid contracting a chest cold. Here are the most effective ways to stay away from one:
- Do not smoke or spend time exposed to secondhand smoke
- Keep hands washed, and away from your face
- Stay current with all recommended immunizations for you and your children
When to see a doctor
Consult a doctor if you experience any of the following:
Symptoms lasting longer than two weeks
A fever of 102° F or higher
Mucus with blood produced when you cough
Any shortness of breath or wheezing