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Lung Infections and COPD

Topic Overview

When you have COPD, it’s easier for you to get lung infections like bronchitis and pneumonia. If you are still smoking, the risk may be even higher.

COPD causes your airways to get narrower. That makes it harder for your lungs to clear out mucus. And that mucus makes an inviting home for the germs that cause lung infections.

These infections also cause more shortness of breath and coughing when you have COPD than they would otherwise.

If you have COPD and symptoms of acute bronchitis or pneumonia, you should see your doctor.

Symptoms of acute bronchitis include:

  • A change in the amount, color, and consistency of the mucus you cough up. The mucus may be clear, yellow, or green. Small streaks of blood may be present.
  • A mild fever, usually less than 101°F (38.3°C).
  • A general feeling of tiredness (malaise).
  • A sensation of tightness, burning, or dull pain in the chest under the breastbone that usually is worse when you breathe deeply or cough.
  • Whistling noises (wheezing) when you breathe, especially during physical exertion.

Symptoms of pneumonia include:

  • A cough, often producing discolored mucus (sputum) from the lungs. Mucus coughed up from the lungs may be green or rust-colored or tinged with blood.
  • A fever, which may be less common in older adults.
  • Shaking chills (just once or many times).
  • Rapid, often shallow, breathing.
  • Chest wall pain that is often made worse when you cough or inhale.
  • A rapid heartbeat.
  • Fatigue or vague feeling of weakness (malaise).
  • Shortness of breath.

You may need to take antibiotics and other medicines to prevent the problem from getting worse.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Ken Y. Yoneda, MD - Pulmonology
Last Revised February 19, 2013

Last Revised: February 19, 2013

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