Colds and flu are common this time of year, but if your symptoms don’t go away in a week or so, you could have something more serious, such as walking pneumonia or bronchitis.
Walking pneumonia is a bacterial infection of the lungs. Symptoms of this mild form of pneumonia include:
- low energy
- stiff muscles and joints
Three different bacteria can cause walking pneumonia, one of which can also cause potentially fatal Legionnaire’s Disease.
A couple weeks on antibiotics usually clears up lung infections, though some symptoms may linger. Cold and flu medicines won’t help walking pneumonia. In fact, cough suppressants can make it harder to clear fluid in your lungs.
Aspirin and pain relievers such as acetaminophen can help control fever. Drinking lots of liquids and resting for a few days can speed recovery.
While walking pneumonia is contagious for the first few days, medical experts think it takes prolonged exposure to catch it. You’re no longer contagious after finishing the antibiotics.
Bronchitis is almost always a viral infection of the bronchi, the tubes that connect the windpipe and lungs. Mucus clogs the airways and sets off deep, racking coughs.
Other symptoms include:
- sore throat
- sore chest muscles from coughing and trying to breathe
Antibiotics won’t cure viral bronchitis, but doctors may prescribe them to guard against a bacterial infection. Rest, lots of fluids and aspirin or acetaminophen can help control fever and other symptoms. Though tiring, coughing helps clear the bronchi. Take expectorants (not cough suppressants) to make coughs more productive.
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