/ Lung Infection
Lung Infection

Symptoms of a lung infection are often mild, but in some cases they can be life threatening. Worldwide, lung infections are a major cause of death; particularly for young children, older adults, and people with compromised immune systems. Lung infection is also the leading cause of hospitalization in infants younger than 1 year old.

Read on to lean more about the different types of lung infections and how to get a diagnosis and treatment.

Types of Lung Infection

The most common types of lung infection are bronchitis, bronchiolitis, and pneumonia. Tuberculosis (TB) is less common, and even more rare is hantavirus pulmonary syndrome.

Pneumonia (swelling of air sacs)

The smallest branches of the bronchial network are small air sacs called alveoli. Pneumonia is the inflammation of the alveoli caused by bacteria, viruses, fungi, or more rarely a parasite.


  • Cough that can produce phlegm
  • Chest pain when breathing or coughing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fatigue
  • Fever, sweating, and chills
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Possible low body temperature

Bronchitis and Bronchiolitis (swelling of airways)

Air moves into and out of the lungs through a tree-like network of bronchial tubes. Bronchitis is inflammation of the larger tubes, usually caused by a cold or flu virus. Bronchiolitis is inflammation of the smaller bronchial tubes and primarily occurs in infants between 3 and 6 months old. Bronchiolitis is typically caused the respiratory syncytial virus.


  • Productive cough (white, clear, yellowish, or green mucus; bloody mucus is possible but rare)
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fever and chills
  • Fatigue
  • Chest discomfort

Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV)

Almost all children under 2 years old will be exposed to RSV and adults can be infected by RSV as well. Most commonly RSV infects the upper respiratory tract, but it can cause a lung infection and lead to bronchitis, bronchiolitis, or pneumonia.


  • Cold-like symptoms such as runny nose or congestion
  • Cough
  • Fever
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Wheezing
  • Fatigue
  • Apnea
  • Cyanosis (bluish tint around the mouth, lips, or fingernails)


Tuberculosis a particular type of bacterial lung infection that can cause pneumonia. It used to be the leading cause of death in the United States, but it is now curable with antibiotics.


  • Cough that produces blood
  • Chest pain
  • Fatigue
  • Fever and chills
  • Night sweats
  • Loss of appetite and weight loss

Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome (HPS)

A rare but serious lung infection caused by the hantavirus (a virus carried by mice and rats) can result in HPS. In its early stages HPS is difficult to distinguish from a flu or pneumonia, but it can suddenly turn life threatening. If you have been around rodents and have pneumonia or flu-like symptoms, keep an eye out for changes in your symptoms.

Symptoms (early stage):

  • Fever and chills
  • Headache
  • Malaise
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea

Symptoms (after 4 to 10 days):

  • Productive cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Hypotension
  • Build-up of fluid in the lungs
  • Reduced heart efficiency

Other Respiratory Tract infections

All the lung infections listed above are lower respiratory tract infections (LRTI’s). Upper respiratory tract infections (URTI’s) are distinct, but can cause a subsequent lung infection as a complication.

Common URTI’s:

If you think you are suffering from a lung infection it is important you see a doctor to get an official diagnosis. While it could just be a minor infection, you want to be sure you aren't suffering from something more serious and potentially life threatening. Book an appointment with a PlushCare doctor today to discuss your symptoms and get proper treatment, including prescriptions when necessary. It's fast, easy and affordable.

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Ryan Quinn

Ryan Quinn

Ryan has a background in geochemical research and enjoys writing on technical subjects like health and science. He lives in Salt Lake City, UT and can be found recreating in the local mountains.

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