Can you catch a chest infection? Symptoms explained - is it contagious, how long can it last and if it’s Covid

How do you know if you have a chest infection and not Covid 19, flu or pneumonia - signs explained

With the changing of the seasons and a drop in temperature, colds are more common than they are in the warmer months.

Sometimes after a cold or flu you may suffer from a chest infection.

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Most chest infections are mild and clear up on their own but others can be a more severe infection of the lungs or airways and sometimes life threatening.

Here’s a look at chest infection symptoms, if it’s contagious and how long they tend to last for...

What are chest infection symptoms?

The main symptoms of a chest infection include:

  • a chesty cough (sometimes bringing up mucus)
  • wheezing
  • shortness of breath
  • chest pain or discomfort
  • a high temperature
  • a headache
  • aching muscles
  • tiredness

How do I know it’s not Covid?

The three main signs of Covid infection are a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste, a high temperature or a new and continuous cough.

If you’re unsure if you have Covid contact NHS 111 and or get a PCR test to check if you have coronavirus. It is advised that you stay at home and self isolate until you get your test result.

Can you catch a chest infection?

Chest infections aren’t as contagious as flu but they can be passed on to others through coughing and sneezing.

It is recommended that you cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze, wash your hands regularly and throw away used tissues immediately to avoid passing it on.

If you have a chest infection then it is advised to get plenty of rest, drink lots of water, take painkillers to bring down a fever and ease headaches and drink hot lemon and honey to relieve a sore throat.

If your child has a chest infection then do not let them breathe in steam from a bowl or hot water because of the risk of scalding, do not give them aspirin and do not take cough medicines.

Further advice around how to avoid getting a chest infection includes asking a GP about a flu vaccine, stopping smoking and cutting down on how much alcohol you drink.

How long can a chest infection last?

If you have a chest infection then the symptoms outlined above can sometimes be unpleasant and often last between seven to 10 days.

Mild cases tend to clear up on their own, with a cough and mucus lasting up to three weeks.

However, if symptoms persist for more than three weeks then it is advised to see a GP. Other reasons to book an appointment with your doctor include:

  • you feel very unwell or your symptoms get worse
  • you cough up blood or blood-stained mucus
  • you’ve had a cough for more than three weeks
  • you’re pregnant
  • you’re over 65
  • your immune system is weak – for example, you have a condition like diabetes or you’re having chemotherapy
  • you have a long-term health condition, such as a heart, lung or kidney condition

You may have pneumonia if your symptoms are severe.

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