What is a lung infection?

Lung infections are known as pneumonia when located in the air sacs or bronchitis when in the larger airways. They occur when bacteria, viruses and sometimes fungi collect and begin to grow in a person’s lungs. When this happens, the airways fill with pus and liquid, making it difficult to breathe. Your symptoms might include chest pain and/or a frequent cough.

Pneumonia is a common problem and treated with antibiotics. On occasion, the inflammation that can occur secondary to pneumonias can lead to the accumulation of fluid within the chest. Known as a pleural effusion, this fluid can interfere with proper lung function.

What are the risks?

If left untreated, lung infections can cause oxygen levels to fall to life-threatening levels when the body’s tissues such as the heart and brain do not get the oxygen they need. If this happens, disorientation, coma, heart failure and death may eventually result.

What are the treatments?

Most people with lung infections can be treated with antibiotics. If your immune system is already weakened, such as in the young or elderly, your doctor may recommend you be admitted to hospital for further treatment.

If pleural effusion develops, an operation may be required to remove the fluid.