Mar 1, 2021 — Chest infections can be caused by a virus, bacteria or fungus and can occur anywhere from the nose to the lung tissue itself. They are the

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Source: Pulmonary Rehabilitation Reference No: 6 356 – 1 Issue date: 1/ 3/21 Review date: 1/ 3/24 Page 1 of 7 Signs and s ymptoms of c hest i nfections Chest infection If you have been diagnosed with a lung condition you can be at greater risk of contracting a chest infection. Chest infections can be caused by a virus, bacteria or fun gus and can occur anywhere from the nose to the lung tissue itself. – and are the most common acute problem treated in hospitals. – our lung function will deteriorate a little more. With all this in mind it is important for you to spot the signs and symptoms of an infection and to know what to do and when. Remember the earlier an infection is treated the more quickly you are likely to recover.

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Page 2 of 7 Signs and symptoms of an infection Change in colour of phlegm Change in quantity of phlegm Change in consistency of phlegm Increased breathlessness Increased wheeze A high temperature, or more hot sweats/flushes than normal Increased tiredn ess or sleeping more often Difficulty getting air in Increased use of reliever (blue) inhaler Decreased effectiveness of inhalers Loss of appetite Increased use of home oxygen Reduced exercise tolerance (tasks are more effortful) Cough – can be dry or pro ductive Chest pain or tightness Rapid heartbeat Increased confusion or disorientation You may have one or more of these symptoms if you have an infection. Phlegm (sputum) If you are someone who regularly expectorates (cough up) phlegm it is a useful way to keep an eye on the health of your lungs. The colour, quantity and consistency of your phlegm are important factors that can indicate whether there may be a problem.

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Page 3 of 7 Colour White/Clear: Thi s is the normal colour of phlegm. Brown: If you have recently given up smoking or are still smoking then your phlegm may be brownish in colour. Green: Any shade of green, from the palest to the darkest, indicates that you have an active chest infection . This means that a visit to your GP would be advisable as antibiotics and/or steroids may be needed. Take a sputum specimen with you if you can. Yellow: Any shade of yellow, from the palest cream to the darkest, means an old infection. This is the mor e common colour to see as it can often take a while to start to clear the infected phlegm from your chest. Be aware that an old infection can become active again if it has not been fully cured. Clear and frothy: This can indicate that you may have some f luid in your lungs. This is especially important to keep an eye on if you are someone who suffers with swollen hands and feet or are on water tablets. Please visit your GP if you are concerned. home, then these can be started if you are unable to get an appointment with your GP immediately. If your symptoms do not continue to improve after 2 – 3 days of Please be sure to inform your GP or Respiratory Nurse that you have started this medication. Quantity they bring up daily and usually at what time of the day. Sometimes when an infection begins the quantity and frequency of the phlegm can increase.

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Page 4 of 7 Consistency Often phlegm can get thicker, stickier and more difficult to clear if an infection is imminent. Remember: Drinking plenty of fluids will keep your phlegm thinner an d easier to clear. Too much caffeine can be dehydrating and too much dairy in your diet can make your phlegm thicker, stickier and more difficult to clear. Recurrent infections Sometimes chest infections can be difficult to treat and w ill require more than one course of antibiotics or a change of antibiotics. Please be sure to return to your GP if: Your symptoms return after you have finished your full course of antibiotics You feel no better after taking the full course of antibiotic s You are someone who regularly coughs when they eat or drink Chest clearance techniques Bubble PEP This is a very easy and effective technique to help you clear your chest. It will also help to strengthen your lungs! PEP is short for Positive Expi ratory Pressure. Bubble PEP is a technique used to help adults or children who have a build – up of phlegm (secretions) in their lungs and struggle to clear them. The technique involves blowing bubbles through w ater. As you blow out and make bubbles in the water, a positive pressure is created within the tubing and transferred into the airways in your lungs. This positive pressure helps to hold open your airways, allowing more air to flow in and out. The air can then get behind the phlegm helping to mo ve it more easily upwards through the open airways. You should then be able to cough or huff and clear the phlegm from your lungs.

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Page 5 of 7 Take a deep breath in (without the tubing in your mouth). Blow out through the tubing (creating bubbles in the water) for as long as possible. Repeat this ___ times, making sure that you catch your breath between each blow out. This is one cycle. Then huff (fo rced expiratory technique) or cough to try and clear your phlegm as instructed by your Physiotherapist. Always try to spit the phlegm out rather than swallow it. You can repeat the cycle as necessary or as instructed by your Physiotherapist Please be su re to wash out the equipment after use Active cycle of breathing technique (ACBT) Trying to cough up phlegm can be tiring and unproductive. The Active Cycle of Breathing technique uses different depths of breathing to move phlegm from the smaller airwa ys at the bottom of your lungs to the larger airways at the top of the lungs where you can then huff or cough to clear it. This exercise should be performed in a relaxed position (sitting or side – lying) with your shoulders relaxed. A 2 pint milk or fruit juice carton with a flat base thoroughly washed. Wide plastic tubing approximately 30cm in length Bubble PEP Equipment

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Page 6 of 7 Steaming your sinuses. Fill a large bowl with hot water (you may add Eucalyptus Oil to the water if you wish). Sit with your face about 30cm above the steaming bowl and breathe in the vapours for about 5 minutes. This can be repeated 3 – 4 times per day if necessary. Mucolytics Sometimes clearing thick phlegm may require a more regular intervention. Please ask your GP or Respiratory Nurse about mucolytic medication tha t can be taken daily to help with this problem. Clearing secretions Coughing Increased coughing during an infection can be painful, exhausting and inconvenient. Drink plenty to prevent your throat becoming dry and irritated ough Support your chest when coughing

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