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5 Signs and Symptoms of a Lung Infection

A Lung Infection May Be Serious in COPD

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Updated July 02, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Not everyone who has COPD has an active lung infection. But, having a lung infection when you are diagnosed with COPD can be quite serious. Because it can lead to COPD exacerbation that may result in hospitalization and death, it is important that you know what to look out for.

The following signs and symptoms of lung infection should alert you to contact your doctor as soon as possible:

1. Fever

Normal body temperature varies from person to person, but in general, it is 98.6. Having a fever is one sign that you may have a bacterial lung infection. If your lung infection is bacterial in nature, your doctor will prescribe antibiotics. Be sure to take the entire course of antibiotics until they are completely gone. Do not stop taking them if you feel better. Stopping antibiotics too early can lead to antibiotic resistance.

2. Increased Shortness of Breath

Shortness of breath, or dyspnea, is one of the hallmark symptoms of COPD, but, if it begins to worsen, this could be a sign that you are developing a lung infection and need to contact your doctor.

3. Productive Cough

While a chronic cough comes with the territory with COPD, a cough that gets worse and becomes productive may be a sign that a lung infection is brewing and medical attention is needed.

4. Changes in Mucus

Many patients complain about having an increased amount of mucus when they have COPD. When a lung infection is present, however, mucus production not only increases in amount, but generally gets thicker and stickier, and changes in color. It can also have a foul odor to it.

5. Pleuritic Chest Pain

This type of chest pain is not cardiac in nature, meaning it is not a result of a heart condition. Chest pain associated with infection of the lungs is sometimes described as a sharp, aching pain that gets worse when breathing deeply or coughing. It may feel like pressure, or tightness, inside the chest wall. In any event, any type of chest pain is abnormal and needs to be addressed immediately with a health care professional.

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