Health News Articles

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 (UMCPP).

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 bacteria.

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 serious.”

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