Colds and flu are common in winter.  With a little bit of tlc, your body generally fixes things all by itself.

Well done to your body!

However, a chest infection, especially one that never quite gets better is a little more serious and needs to be checked out by your doctor.

The 3 Key Symptoms to Look Out For Are:

1.      A cough that never goes away

2.      Coughing up phlegm that’s not clear in colour

Phlegm colours range from clear to yellow to green, depending on what’s going on.  Clear is good and means there’s no sign of infection.  If you notice that you’ve coughed up some blood or your phlegm is a brownish colour, let your doctor know.

Your white blood cells are the good guys who defend against bacterial or viral invasion.  Some of them have a green-coloured protein in them called myeloperoxidase.  When you have more of them rushing to the front line to defend you, your phlegm becomes green.

Dr Cliodna McNulty, head of Public Health Englands’s primary care unit said:

“It’s a prevailing myth that anyone with green phlegm or snot needs a course of antibiotics to get better. Most of the infections that generate lots of phlegm and snot are viral illnesses and will get better on their own although you can expect to feel pretty poorly for a few weeks. There are plenty of over-the-counter medicines which are very effective in managing the symptoms of these illnesses and can reduce headache, muscle soreness, fever and sore throats.”

There are also plenty of herbs that will do the trick.

3.        Breathlessness.  This is when you have trouble breathing in or out or you can’t take a deep breath.


If in any doubt, consult your doctor.  Particularly if you are coughing up blood, have some chest pain or breathlessness.

NHS Choices has some useful advice on what to do when you have a cold or the flu.

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