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Trouble Breathing? Common Types of Lung Infection

Medically reviewed by Mae Charisse Antalan, MD · General Practitioner

Written by Nikita Bhalla · Updated Feb 16, 2023

Trouble Breathing? Common Types of Lung Infection

A virus, bacteria, fungus, or parasitic infection can cause a lung infection. Sometimes, the lung infection can affect the smaller air sacs causing pneumonia, or the larger airways causing bronchitis.

Pneumonia is a common type of lung infection. It is most commonly caused due to contagious bacteria or a virus. 

A person can suffer from any type of lung infection when he or she breathes in the bacteria or virus when an infected person nearby coughs or sneezes.

Pneumonia, bronchitis, tuberculosis, and bronchiolitis are the common types of lung infection.

Symptoms of a lung infection

Most commonly, people suffer from pneumonia during winter or spring. It can strike suddenly and resolve on its own within a few days. People will experience the symptoms according to age, the cause, and the severity of the infection. In some cases, underlying health conditions may also cause such symptoms:

  • Coughing with brown or green-colored phlegm
  • Fast or difficult breathing
  • Fever often accompanied by sweating, shivering, chills
  • Appetite loss
  • Fatigue
  • Chest pain
  • Vomiting and diarrhea
  • General aches and muscle pain
  • Stomach pain
  • Blue color around the lips
  • Headaches

Causes of lung infection

As said, there are four types of lung infections such as bronchiolitis, bronchitis, tuberculosis, and pneumonia. Typically, they are caused due to bacteria or a virus.

Rarely, lung infections are caused by fungi like Histoplasma capsulatum, Pneumocystis jirovecii, and Aspergillus.

Bronchitis is caused due to most common microorganisms like:

  • Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) or influenza virus
  • Bacteria like Bordetella pertussis, Mycoplasma pneumoniae, and Chlamydia pneumoniae
  • Pneumonia is caused by the most common microorganisms like:

    • Influenza virus or RSV
    • Bacteria like Mycoplasma pneumoniae, Haemophilus influenzae, and Streptococcus pneumonia (most common)

    Tuberculosis, the most common lung infection in India, is caused due:

    •  Bacteria like Mycobacterium tuberculosis (MTB)

    Risk factors of pneumonia

    • Individuals who are age 65 years and above
    • Children who are age 2 years and younger

    Other factors

    • Excess smoking
    • Suppressed or weakened immune system
    • Being hospitalized 

    Risk factors of bronchitis 

    • Excessive cigarette smoking
    • Gastric reflux
    • Low resistance
    • Exposure to lung irritants at job

    Risk factors of bronchiolitis 

    • Children under the age of 2 years
    • Kids younger than 3 months

    Kids younger than 3 months are at greater risks of developing bronchiolitis. It is because their immune systems and lungs are not fully developed. 

    Other factors

    • Weakened immune system
    • Babies that are never been breastfed 
    • Contact with multiple children, such as in a child care setting
    • Underlying heart or lung condition
    • Exposure to tobacco smoke
    • Premature birth
    • Spending time in crowded environments

    Risk factors of tuberculosis

    • Contact with people infected
    • Less body weight
    • Diabetes mellitus
    • Weak immune system due to health conditions like HIV, kidney disease, cancers, etc.

    Your doctor will ask for your medical history and family medical history before suggesting a test or treatment. 

    Firstly, your doctor will do a physical test that includes listening to your lungs and heartbeat with a stethoscope to find abnormal crackling or bubbling sounds that suggest any type of lung infection.

    Below are the common tests your doctor will order to detect the type of lung infection and its possible causes.

    Chest X-ray

    This helps your doctor to diagnose any type of lung infection and determine the exact location of the infection. 

    Sputum test

    It is a procedure where the doctor draws a sample of fluid from your lungs to do an intense cough analysis to find the infection and its causes.

    Pulse oximetry

    This procedure measures the oxygen levels in the blood. Lung infections like pneumonia can prevent your lungs from passing sufficient oxygen into the bloodstream. 

    Blood tests

    Blood tests help to confirm an infection and try to identify the type of microorganism that causes infection. However, the blood test does not always yield microorganism identification

    Pulmonary function test

    This test helps determine your lung capacity and what kind of lung impairment you may be suffering. In this test, you blow air into a device called a spirometer. The device checks how much air your lungs can hold and how quickly it can get out of your lungs. This test helps to detect the signs of emphysema and asthma.

    Viral testing

    In this test, your doctor will collect a sample of mucus through a swab inserted through the nose to analyze and find the virus that causes bronchiolitis.

    Doctors may order additional tests if you or the patient is older than 65 years and have any severe health conditions or it’s symptoms.

    • Pleural fluid analysis: In this procedure, the doctor draws a few drops of fluid by inserting a needle between your ribs from the pleural area. After drawing the fluid, it is then analyzed to determine the type of infection.
    • CT scan: The doctor may order a chest CT scan to obtain a detailed image of the lungs.

    Key takeaway

    Bacteria, viruses, fungi, or parasites may give you a lung infection. The common types of lung infection include pneumonia, bronchitis, tuberculosis, and bronchiolitis. If you show the symptoms of any of these conditions, consult with a doctor right away.

    Learn more about Other Respiratory Issues here.


    Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

    Medically reviewed by

    Mae Charisse Antalan, MD

    General Practitioner

    Written by Nikita Bhalla · Updated Feb 16, 2023

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