Chris Martin, lead singer of Coldplay, seen at a concert.Share on Pinterest
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  • The lead singer of Coldplay, Chris Martin, is dealing with a serious lung infection.
  • The band had to cancel shows due to the illness.
  • A lung infection is a type of lower respiratory tract infection and can result in symptoms such as congestion, cough, and difficulty breathing.

The band Coldplay said on Oct. 4 that it had to postpone upcoming shows in Brazil because its lead singer, Chris Martin, has a “serious lung infection” and is under doctor’s orders to rest for three weeks.

A lung infection is a type of lower respiratory tract infection and can result in symptoms such as congestion, cough and difficulty breathing.

These infections can be caused by bacteria, viruses, and fungi. Although many people get better on their own, sometimes a lung infection can be severe enough to require a person to be hospitalized.

“While upper respiratory tract infections can also impact people, lower respiratory infections are really where the threat of significant complications and death can occur,” said Dr. David A. Beuther, a pulmonologist and associate professor at National Jewish Health in Denver.

One type of lower respiratory tract infection that many people are aware of is pneumonia, an infection in the lungs.

Before antibiotics were available, bacterial pneumonia killed many people, said Beuther. “But even today with antibiotics, this kind of infection can [worsen],” he said, “particularly in older, very young or vulnerable people.”

Pneumonia can also be caused by viruses.

For a long time, the “most common and deadly” type of viral pneumonia was caused by the influenza virus, said Beuther, but now it is due to SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

“There are also times when a person can get a viral pneumonia, and then a secondary bacterial pneumonia” on top of that, he said.

Another common lower respiratory tract infection is acute bronchitis, an inflammation of the lining of the bronchial tubes.

Dr. Thomas Yadegar, a pulmonologist and medical director of the ICU at Providence Cedars-Sinai Tarzana Medical Center, said there’s quite a bit of overlap between the symptoms of pneumonia and acute bronchitis.

With acute bronchitis, people may have a cough, low-grade fever, body aches, weakness, and tiredness. “These are all symptoms you can get with pneumonia, as well,” said Yadegar.

But he said people with pneumonia may also feel pain when they take a deep breath or cough; and they typically have a high-grade fever, 103°F or higher.

One other thing that differentiates the two types of infections is that “with bronchitis, people for the most part can go about their daily activities,” he said. Whereas with pneumonia, they feel run down, have a lack of energy, and may lose their appetite, he said.

Lower respiratory tract infections can occur in anyone, but some people are at greater risk of severe illness and may have a harder time recovering.

“We certainly worry about people who are impaired in some way,” said Beuther.

He said this includes infants and newborn babies — particularly premature babies, whose immune system is still developing — and those over age 65.

In addition, people whose immune system is compromised, either because of a medical condition or a medication that suppresses the immune system, are at higher risk of severe lung infections, he said.

Some underlying medical conditions also put people at greater risk, including lung disease, said Dr. Fady Youssef, a pulmonologist, internist, and critical care specialist at MemorialCare Long Beach Medical Center in Long Beach, California.

“That group would include patients with asthma, COPD, pulmonary fibrosis, interstitial lung disease or lung cancer — any disease that decreases the ability of the lung to fight an infection,” or affects the ability of the lung to take in air, he said.

When asked about Coldplay’s Chris Martin, Beuther said being a professional singer isn’t a particular risk factor for severe lower respiratory tract infections.

“Anybody, even a young, completely healthy person can get pneumonia,” he said. “I’ve even seen young, healthy people die of pneumonia. This still happens despite good care.”

However, being run-down, under a lot of stress, and not getting enough sleep can increase the risk of developing pneumonia, he said.

“Your immune system can be somewhat compromised just by overextending yourself, being overtired, and not eating properly,” he said.

But being rundown isn’t something experienced only by rock band musicians.

“We see this in athletes who have overtrained, for example, or even new parents who are not sleeping well with their new baby at home,” said Beuther.

Youssef said the majority of people who get a viral respiratory tract infection improve on their own with supportive care, such as rest, drinking fluids, and eating healthy foods.

However, “if within a two-day window, you’re not improving, then you should definitely seek medical attention,” said Yadegar.

People whose infection is due to the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 may want to seek medical care as soon as possible.

You may be eligible for medications — Paxlovid or Lagevrio — that may reduce your risk of severe illness. These treatments work best when started within 5 days after the start of symptoms.

There are also other things you can do to reduce your risk of severe illness from lower respiratory tract infections.

“Vaccination remains an important way to defend yourself against [certain types of] pneumonia,” said Beuther. “One of the most deadly is called pneumococcal pneumonia, and we have vaccines that protect against that.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends this vaccine for people 65 years or older, as well as for younger adults, teenagers, and children with certain medical conditions.

“In addition, getting the flu shot every year can dramatically reduce your risk of dying of influenza pneumonia,” said Beuther.

And “if people haven’t had at least three doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, they are not doing what they can to protect themselves from viral pneumonia caused by the coronavirus,” he said.