What Causes Chest Congestion?

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  • Written By: Sarah Sullins
  • Edited By: M. C. Hughes
  • Last Modified Date: 08 October 2019
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Chest congestion can be caused by a number of problems, including the common cold, pneumonia, or the flu. Other issues like asthma and allergies can also result in congestion in the chest. Rarely, this type of problem can be caused by a person’s heart not being able to pump the way that it should. Most of the time, these problems can be treated, although more serious issues will need to be identified early in order for them to be treated properly.

The common cold, sinusitis, and the flu are often the most common reasons for chest congestion to occur. Mucus is normally present in the body and works to keep anything bad from entering the lungs, but when a person is suffering from a cold, sinusitis, or the flu, too much mucus is made in the body and there may be too much of it in a person’s respiratory tract. This can cause congestion and pain.

In children, an illness known as croup can often be the cause of chest congestion. This problem, which is normally caused by a virus, often occurs during the colder months of the year and is accompanied by a loud cough that sounds like a bark. The child may also have trouble breathing because of the swelling that normally occurs in the larynx and trachea.


Bronchitis often causes the over-development of mucus in the body as well, which can lead to chest congestion. The excessive mucus is often caused by the swelling of the bronchial tubes. As the mucus becomes thicker, it blocks off much of a person’s airway and may lead to pain in the chest and trouble breathing. Asthma is often caused by swollen bronchial tubes and can result in the same types of problems.

Pneumonia and tuberculosis are both very serious illnesses that can lead to death if not identified early and treated. Viral, bacterial, or fungal infections may be the cause of pneumonia, and many people often experience trouble breathing, fever, tiredness, and chills with this illness. Tuberculosis is a contagious infection that mainly affects a person’s lungs. The most common symptoms of this infectious disease are coughing up blood or sputum, fever, night sweats, fatigue, chest congestion, and weight loss.

When an allergen is inhaled, it causes an infection in that person’s lungs. Excess mucus develops as a result of this infection. This can cause the person to have difficulty breathing and to have pain and congestion in his chest.

Although it does not occur often, if the heart has problems pumping it can cause a person’s lungs to become saturated with fluid. This can cause difficulty breathing, chest congestion, abnormal heart beat, and even swelling in other areas of the body, such as the ankles. Medical treatment for a person experiences these types of symptoms is generally needed as quickly as possible.


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