7 Signs Your Upper Respiratory Infection is Actually Pneumonia

Upper respiratory infections typically clear up within two to three weeks, but they can develop into pneumonia. If you are experiencing one or more of these pneumonia symptoms, it’s time to consult your doctor.

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You may develop a low-grade fever with an upper respiratory infections (URI); it’s not common, but also not impossible. If, however, that fever reaches 101 degrees or higher, there's a greater chance that URI has developed into pneumonia. (Related: Could it be a sinus infection? Here are common sinus infection symptoms.)

Rapid heart rate


If during your illness you notice your heart beating faster than normal, take a moment to check your heart rate. Anything over 100 beats per minute is considered a rapid heart rate. If a rapid heart rate persists, seek medical attention.

Chest pain


When an URI moves down into the lungs, a tightening of the chest and pain may occur. Pneumonia is an infection of the lungs and not just the upper respiratory system. The pain is a signal that the URI has developed into something more serious. (Related: These little habits can boost your immunity all winter long.)

Wet cough


A persistent cough is common with a URI. (Related: Find out these natural cough remedies.) Eventually, that cough becomes productive and allows for the body to push out mucus. However, if that cough is consistently wet and rattly, this could mean that the URI has turned into pneumonia. If you have a cough that keeps bringing up mucus and doesn’t bring relief, you may have pneumonia.

Blood-tinged mucus


If the mucus being produced by your cough is tinged with blood or has a rusty color, this is a potential sign that the discharge is coming from deep in the lungs, which indicates a lower respiratory infection such as pneumonia. Let your doctor know about this change as it may require a different course of treatment. Here's what else your mucus can say about your health.


iStock/George Clerk

Patients with pneumonia often report teeth-chattering chills that cannot be remedied. Chills are a sign of fever and that the body is working overtime to regulate temperature. This is a sign that an upper respiratory infection has developed into pneumonia.

Difficulty breathing


If you have been suffering a cold or upper respiratory infection and your breathing becomes shallow or labored, you may have pneumonia. This is a serious symptom that may require a nebulizer breathing treatment in order to open the lungs. Consult your physician immediately to avoid further issues from oxygen deprivation such as lightheadedness, blood flow issues, or losing consciousness.

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