A chest cold, synonymous with acute bronchitis (as termed by health professionals), is an ailment that occurs when the bronchial tubes swell, becoming inflamed within the lungs. The bronchial tubes expand and secrete mucus. This is often preceded by an upper respiratory infection, such as the flu or cold, a smoking lifestyle, or a bacterial infection.
Symptoms of a Chest Cold
A cough is the most common symptom of acute bronchitis. The first few days may be without mucus, but may later develop into a cough producing white or yellow phlegm. Antibiotics may be prescribed to treat the discoloration. The cough may correlate with wheezing or hoarseness in the throat. Coughing remains longer than other symptoms, lasting up to eight weeks.
A chest cold often affects nasal symptoms. Some initial signs to appear are a runny nose and sneezing. The excess mucus can also intensify breathing difficulties due to stuffy nasal passages.
An acute bronchitis sufferer may be flushed or sweat irregularly when experiencing a body temperature higher than 100.4° F, indicative of a fever. An aching body and generalized weakness are fatigue symptoms associated with a chest cold. Usually the fatigue subsides after a few days. In a report done by the University of Pennsylvania Health System, chest cold symptoms usually emerge two to three days after the onset of infection, and improvement follows after two to three weeks.
Other chest cold symptoms include:
- chest congestion
- chest pain or tightness
- shortness of breath
- watery eyes
- sore throat
- mild headache
The chest cold may worsen the headache with head movement, especially with an already present fever or sensitivity to light. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, other signs include general fatigue as well as body and muscle aches.
More serious symptoms of a chest cold
Immediate medical attention should be taken if a person shows signs of moderate to severe shortness of breath, bluish coloration of the lips, changing levels of alertness or consciousness, lethargy, rapid pulse, or wheezing while breathing. A fever higher than 101°F is also cause for alarm, indicating pneumonia. Consult your doctor if any of these chest cold symptoms are noted or if the generalized symptoms last more than three weeks.
Steps to Prevent Acute Bronchitis
- Avoid smoking and smoking environments
- Wash hands regularly
- Stay up to date with recommended immunizations
Here are some suggestions for common cold remedies. These remedies may be found helpful for other generalized symptoms of a cold, other than the chest cold.
Drinking plenty of fluids can help flush a cold out of your system. Water, juice, clear broth, or warm lemon water with honey can help loosen congestion and prevent dehydration. A saltwater gargle isn’t farfetched, as it can temporarily relieve a sore or irritated throat. A 1/4-1/2 teaspoon of salt dissolved in 8 ounces of warm water is adequate.
Certain foods may increase immune system resistance to a cold. Chicken soup is a good option because it has possible anti-inflammatory and mucus-thinning properties. Recognize zinc lozenges in naturally occurring food, as these are essential minerals required by many enzymes in our bodies. Zinc lozenges can be found in meat, seafood, liver and eggs. The recommended daily intake for women is 12 mg and 15 mg for men. A multivitamin may suffice.
Garlic has been regarded as a remedy for cold in many households. Several cultures use garlic in chicken soup or serve it crushed, mixed in a drink. It is believed to be allicin that gives garlic it’s antibacterial and antifungal properties. Besides being available in pill form, fresh, raw garlic may be chopped or crushed to maximize the amount of allicin.
Researchers have found that honey may sooth and coat throat irritation because of its cold-fighting effects. Honey is also believed to be antibacterial with beneficial antioxidants. A honey that’s dark in color is particularly high in antioxidants, like buckwheat honey. Limit the amount of honey at night due to the possibility of cavities.
Alternative cold remedies found in folk culture
Commonly used in Chinese medicine, astragalus root has been found to strengthen immunity and prevent the common cold. Various studies have found that astragalus has antiviral properties and enhances the immune system.
Ginger root is another remedy for cough, colds and sore throat with folk culture roots. In traditional Chinese medicine, ginger root targets coughs and treats colds localized in the nasal passages (with symptoms of a runny nose and clear discharge), headaches, and neck and shoulder pains. Hot ginger tea is a popular household remedy to ward off cold symptoms and a sore throat. Lemon and honey are commonly added. Care should be taken with dose levels as excessive amounts of honey may cause heartburn and indigestion.
Others regard the historical use of elderberrys as a folk remedy for colds. Preliminary lab studies found that elderberry extracts fight off viruses. Researchers believe the anthocyanin compounds in elderberries to be the active ingredient that strengthens the immune system and inhibits the flu virus from inhabiting our cells. Health food stores sell elderberry juice, syrup and capsules. Rare side effects include mild indigestion or allergy symptoms.
Regardless of recent findings questioning the use of echniacea to treat colds or the flu, it’s still one of the popular common cold remedies. Herbalists recommend taking echinacea every two to three hours with a total daily intake of three or more grams at the first onset of symptoms. After several days, the dose is usually tapered and carried through the following week. The Cochrane Collaboration conducted a review of 15 studies on echinacea and found that it wasn’t more than a placebo for cold treatment.