Spotting and Treating Lung Infections
Mar 20, 2014
Many lung infections are acute and mild, with a rapid onset and short
course. But for patients with an underlying lung condition, lung
infections can be more serious and should be treated immediately.
Knowing the different types of lung infections and how to spot
them can help you decide when to see your doctor, says Kenneth
Goldblatt, MD, (pictured left) and Chief of Pulmonary/Critical Care
Medicine at University Medical Center of Princeton at Plainsboro
Types and symptoms
Acute bronchitis is a common, and usually mild, infection caused by a
virus or bacteria. An inflammation of the bronchi (or airways) in the
lungs, bronchitis may last several days. Symptoms include cough, phlegm
production and fever. Fatigue and shortness of breath may also occur.
Pneumonia, on the other hand, is caused by inflammation of the
alveoli, the microscopic airsacs within the lungs. The symptoms are more
severe and can include fever, chills, chest tightness, cough and
shortness of breath. Pneumonia can also be caused by viruses or
When should you seek treatment?
“Patients who are otherwise well and have a low-grade
fever and a cough producing yellow phlegm do not need to see a doctor
unless the symptoms last for more than
14 days,” says Dr. Goldblatt, who is board certified in internal
medicine and pulmonary disease. “However, patients with an underlying
lung condition, such as COPD or asthma, should see a doctor immediately,
as any lung infection can affect these other conditions and become more
Most lung infections can be treated through a visit with your primary
physician. But if you experience a very high fever (above 101 degrees),
long bouts of coughing (lasting more than a few minutes), are unable to
think or speak clearly, or unable to catch your breath, you should
visit the ER for emergency treatment.
To find a physician affiliated with Princeton Medicine, please call
1.800.FIND.A.DR (1.800.346.3237) or visit www.princetonmedicine.org.