Not sure if cold related. Long Term Cough, Tightness in Chest


Q: For about 10 weeks I've felt like I had a cold. Slight cough, runny nose, but no blocked sinuses or headache. About 4 weeks ago I started to feel a little feverish - off and on. Since that time my temperature has been between 100 and 100.6 taken rectally. In the last week or so I seem to be worse. Nose is still runny a little but now my chest feels "tight", coughing is worse and some shortness of breath. The cough does sometimes produce moderate to large amount of phlegm. At first I had thought it might be early allergies due to unusually warm weather but this is definitely not allergies. I'm frequently tired. Sometimes a little achy. Don't feel particularly hungry most of the time but I do eat. I am a smoker but have been trying to quit so have gradually gone from 2 packs a day down to about less than a pack over last 2 months or so. I do drink alcohol every night, the amount varies. My concern is that this has lasted so long and seems to be worse all of a sudden. I hadn't gone to see my doctor prior as I didn't feel that bad and thought it was nothing. I'm sure I should go but would like an idea of what I may be experiencing. I know you can only give general ideas - not a diagnosis. Thanks


A:   Typically the constellation of symptoms of coughing, sore throat and congestion are the result of a viral infection. However, when the symptoms continue for a period of time or the symptoms worsen, we do have to keep in mind that this may be a bacterial infection. Bacterial infections tend to be more severe than viral infections, usually causing fevers and generalized weakness. Production of phlegm may be due to a number of pathogens that would require sputum microscopy and culture for identification. I would suggest that you meet up with your doctor soon. It is essential to rule out development of pneumonia in your case. Additionally, you should know that stopping smoking is the best possible thing you can do for your health at this point. I wish you a speedy recovery, take care.

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