A chest infection affects the lungs or your airways. An infection of the lungs or large airways is known as a chest infection. If the infection affects the larger airways, it is known as bronchitis, and if it affects the smaller air sacs, it is known as pneumonia. Bronchitis and pneumonia are the most common types of chest infections. While some chest infections can be mild and clear up on their own, others can be severe and even life-threatening. It is important to catch chest infections early on so as to reduce the risk of having any serious complications. Doctors mostly prescribe a course of antibiotics to ensure that the entire infection clears up. Let us take a look at how long an episode of chest infection can last and the best antibiotics for chest infections.
Types Of Chest Infections & How Long They Last?
There are two major types of chest infections, acute bronchitis, and pneumonia. Bronchitis is the more common type of chest infection and the severity of this infection is also much less. Meanwhile, pneumonia is less common but the severity is much higher.
If you are suffering from bronchitis, then it is a short-term infection that affects the lining of the lungs’ air tubes, known as bronchi. Caused by a virus, this type of chest infection (Bronchitis) usually lasts for seven to ten days. Most people do not generally require medical treatment for bronchitis and it clears up on its own.
On the other hand, pneumonia is a type of chest infection that affects the small air sacs in your lungs. Most cases of pneumonia are caused by bacteria, but some can be caused by viruses as well. Assessing the severity of pneumonia is complicated. While some people manage to get better on simple antibiotics itself, severe cases may also require hospitalization as their condition might be life-threatening. This type of chest infection (Pneumonia) can last for anywhere between two to three weeks.
Best Antibiotics for Chest Infection
Let us take a look at some of the most common antibiotics that are used in the treatment of chest infections.
Amoxicillin is one of the most common antibiotics prescribed for the treatment of chest infection. Amoxicillin belongs to the penicillin group of medications and it treats infections caused by bacteria. This antibiotic works by stopping the growth of bacteria and by killing them. The medicine prevents bacteria from forming cell walls, thus killing them and eventually eradicating the infection. Amoxicillin is not effective against infections that are caused by viruses. Common side effects of using amoxicillin include diarrhea, tooth discoloration, and candidiasis.
Amoxicillin is commonly taken as an oral medication. It is available as a dry tablet, a capsule, a chewable tablet, a suspension, or even liquid preparation. It is also available in the form of drops for children. It is usually taken twice a day or once in every 12 hours. It can also be prescribed to be taken three times a day or eight hourly. The dosage depends on your doctor’s instructions. The entire course of the antibiotic needs to be followed as otherwise, the infection might come back. If you discontinue the treatment before the end of the actual prescribed course, there is also a chance that the bacteria will develop a resistance to this antibiotic.
Point to be noted – if a patient is allergic to penicillin, there is a good chance that you might be allergic to amoxicillin as well. Therefore, check with your doctor and discuss your health history before starting a course of amoxicillin.
Cefuroxime is a cephalosporin antibiotic that is used for the treatment of chest infections. It is available as tablets, oral liquid medicine and also in injection form. Cefuroxime is considered to be a broad spectrum antibiotic, meaning it can work against several varieties of bacteria. It is effective in treating bacterial infections such as chest infections, ear infections, sinusitis, skin infections, etc. Cefuroxime is often also given before any major surgical operation as it prevents an infection from setting in. The antibiotic works by killing the bacteria causing the infection. It is generally considered to be a safe antibiotic and is also safe to be taken during pregnancy. However, similar to amoxicillin, people who are allergic to penicillin antibiotics, may suffer allergic reactions to cefuroxime. Cefuroxime is not to be taken on an empty stomach. Either take it with a snack or after meals.
Clarithromycin is an antibiotic used to treat chest infections. This is an alternate antibiotic that is used by people who are allergic to penicillin and penicillin antibiotics such as amoxicillin. Clarithromycin is only available on prescription and it is available in the form of tablets, liquid, or even granules. It is also available in injection form but that is only administered in the hospital. Clarithromycin is to be taken twice daily, morning and evening. Slow-release clarithromycin tablets are also available and these are taken once a day only. Feedback from patients, though, is not very positive as clarithromycin seems to have several side effects, most common ones being stomach cramps, vomiting, and diarrhea. The usual dosage of clarithromycin is 250mg and 500 mg, taken two times a day. If you suffer from kidney problems, then the dosage is going to be lower, so make sure you inform your doctor about all pre-existing health conditions. The medication can be taken with or without food.
Another antibiotic from the cephalosporin family, Cephalexin is used to treat chest infections caused by bacteria. Cephalexin is also known as a first-generation cephalosporin antibiotic as it was one of the first antibiotics of this family to be developed and marketed. This antibiotic is used for the treatment of not only chest infections, but also respiratory tract infections, middle ear infections, and urinary tract infections. The antibiotic further prevents infections that may be caused by streptococcal bacteria.
Cephalexin is not recommended for sinus infections. The medication is available in tablet form or in liquid form. The medication works by interfering with the bacteria’s ability to make cell walls. Without cell walls, the bacteria cells are unable to survive. One should only use cephalexin when there is strong evidence to demand its use as overusing broad-spectrum antibiotics can also cause severe infections from drug-resistant bacteria. If you are allergic to penicillin and penicillin antibiotics, chances are high that you will also be allergic to cephalexin, so discuss the same with your doctor before you begin using it. Common symptoms of an allergic reaction to cephalexin include swelling under the skin, itching, throat swelling, rashes, etc. The typical dosage for this antibiotic is 250mg every six hours or 500mg every 12 hours. For children, the dosage is much less.
If you are suffering from a bacterial chest infection, then chances are that you will automatically start to feel better within 24 to 48 hours after starting your antibiotics. Your cough may persist for some days or even weeks. For more serious types of chest infections, the recovery following the start of antibiotics is more gradual. You might feel weak for some time after starting antibiotics and may also be needing a longer period of bed rest. Only take antibiotics for chest infection if they are prescribed by your doctor and make sure that you finish the entire course of antibiotics.