A lung infection is usually caused by a bacterial infection. Viruses, fungi or inhaled pollutants are responsible less often. Fever, cough and sputum are typical symptoms of a lung infection. Lung infections which are caused by bacteria must usually be treated with antibiotics.
A lung infection is still a serious infectious disease. Bacteria are the most frequent cause of such infections. Older people, people with chronic lung infections such as COPD, those with a weakened immune system as well as those who suffer from diabetes are at risk of falling ill with a lung infection.
Tuberculosis is a special form of lung infection, and is outlined in a separate section.
Depending on the cause, a lung infection may develop quickly or slowly, and progress differently. A typical bacterial lung infection manifests as a cough, sputum, fever, shivering and rapid deterioration in the sufferer’s general physical condition. If the lungs or the bronchi are involved, breathing-related pain may also occur. Lung infections which develop as part of a viral infection; for example, during a bout of flu, usually do so slowly, and tend to manifest in the form of a dry cough more than as a fever. It is sometimes difficult to differentiate between a lung infection and the flu, so flu symptoms should be checked by a doctor in the case of doubt.
A lung infection is diagnosed on the basis of the symptoms, by auscultating the lungs and taking an x-ray image of the lungs.
The treatment depends on the cause and severity of the disease. If a patient has a suspected bacterial lung infection, antibiotics are usually administered. In milder cases, when there is no reduced lung function and no other severe underlying illness, the treatment can be undertaken on an outpatient basis. In cases of severe lung infection or if the patient is elderly, inpatient care with the administration of oxygen and antibiotics via an infusion is required.