Health articles

Heart Conditions
23 May 2022

Heart Conditions

Heart conditions can also be referred to as cardiovascular diseases. Most heart conditions can be prevented by living a healthy life. The heart is made up of arteries, veins, four valves and four chambers.

Overview- What is it?

A chest infection is a bacterial or viral caused infection that affects the airways (bronchi) or the lungs. Some of the most common chest infections include pneumonia and bronchitis. Bronchitis is mostly caused by a viral infection while pneumonia is a bacterial infection that agitates the air sacs of one or both lungs. These chest infections can be infectious through coughing and sneezing. 

Some of the symptoms are rapid heartbeat, nausea and persistent coughing. Chest infections can be diagnosed through chest x-rays, blood tests and sputum tests, among other tests. 

They can be treated using medication such as antibiotics and pain relievers. You can prevent yourself from getting chest infections by getting vaccinated against pneumonia and flu, not smoking and practising good hygiene, among other preventive measures.

Causes - What Causes it?
Different germs can result in chest infections but the most common are bacteria and viruses in the air that we inhale or exhale. Other factors that can contribute to chest infections include:
  • Smoking
  • Being hospitalised in intensive care
  • Chronic illnesses such as asthma and other heart conditions
  • Weakened immune systems due to HIV/AIDS and other immune-suppressive infections
  • Children under the age of 5 and adults above 65 years are at a higher risk of getting chest infections.

Symptoms - What do you feel?

When a person is infected with pneumonia or bronchitis, symptoms appear in a similar manner and can be hard to distinguish on your own which makes a proper diagnosis necessary. The shared symptoms include:

  • Pain in the chest, especially when you cough
  • A persistent cough that may produce sputum
  • Fever, sweating and shaking chills
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Wheezing
  • Nausea, vomiting or diarrhoea
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Shortness of breath and fatigue
  • Fever and chills
  • Shortness of breath
Diagnosis - How do you Diagnose it?
Your doctor can make a diagnosis based on your symptoms by:
  • Using a stethoscope to listen to your breathing while tapping your chest. (Lungs filled with fluid will produce a different sound as compared to healthy lungs.)
  • Using an X-ray of the chest might be done to identify the specific chest infection and how far it has spread in the lungs.
  • Using blood tests or sputum tests to identify the bacteria and viruses that might have caused the infection.
  • Asking you to blow into a device (a spirometer) that measures the volume and movement of air in and out of the lungs so as to identify any abnormal patterns that may be as a result of a chest infection.
Treatment – How do you treat it?
The following factors determine how chest infections are treated:
  • The cause of infection,
  • How severe it is,
  • Your overall health, and
  • Your age.

Over-the-counter cough and cold remedies available at pharmacies won't clear a chest infection. Some of the treatments used are:

  • Pain relievers: Over-the-counter medicines won't clear a chest infection completely. However, fevers, headaches and muscle aches can be relieved with paracetamol or ibuprofen.
  • Cough medicine: These drugs help in relieving pain and unlike cough suppressants, they allow coughing which helps in loosening and disposing of fluid from your lungs.
  • Antibiotics: These are prescribed by a doctor to cure a bacterial chest infection. However, you must take the prescribed dose even when the symptoms subside. Failure to complete the full dose can make the immune system resistant to antibiotics.
  • Hospitalization: Severe cases of pneumonia may require hospital admission to avoid serious complications such as inflammation of the linings between your ribcage and lungs, a lung abscess or blood poisoning.

Prevention - How do you prevent it?

  1. Avoid cigarette smoke. Cigarette smoke increases your risk of chronic bronchitis.
  2. Get annual flu and pneumonia vaccines.
  3. Wash your hands frequently or sanitize them with alcohol-based wipes to avoid a viral infection.
  4. Wear protective gear and a mask at work if you're exposed to dust or fumes.
  5. Avoid close contact with people who are constantly sneezing or coughing.
  6. Avoid or limit alcohol intake as it weakens your immune system making you vulnerable to infections and complications.
  7. Do not smoke. Smoking damages your lungs’ natural mechanism to fight off respiratory diseases.