Chest Infection - Diagnosis

How is a chest infection diagnosed?

Your doctor will be able to make a diagnosis of a chest infection by listening to your story and examining you. They will ask about your symptoms and how you are feeling. They may also ask about your medical history and that of your family. They will be interested in whether you smoke, how much and for how long.

The examination may include checking your temperature. Sometimes your doctor will check how much oxygen is circulating around your body. This is done with a small device that sits on the end of your finger. The doctor will listen to your chest, so they may want you to lift or take off your top. If you want a chaperone during the examination, the doctor will arrange one. If you have asthma, they may ask you to check your peak flow measurement.

Often no tests are needed if you have infection of the large airways (bronchi) in the lungs (acute bronchitis) and your symptoms are mild. If your symptoms are more severe and you need to go to hospital then you may need to have the following tests:

  • A chest X-ray may be taken to be sure of the diagnosis and to see how bad the infection is.
  • Blood tests and phlegm (sputum) tests may be taken to find which germ (bacterium) is causing the serious lung infection (pneumonia). This helps to decide which antibiotic medicine is best to use. Sometimes the germ (bacterium) that is causing the pneumonia is resistant to the first antibiotic. A switch to another antibiotic is sometimes needed.

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Author:
Dr Sarah Jarvis
Peer Reviewer:
Dr Hayley Willacy
Document ID:
28459 (v3)
Last Checked:
18 April 2016
Next Review:
18 April 2019

Disclaimer: This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. Patient Platform Limited has used all reasonable care in compiling the information but make no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. For details see our conditions.