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Respiratory Therapist/Right chest pain, what can this be?


QUESTION: An uncomfortable / slightly tender feeling inside my chest, on the right side of my sternum started around the time that I felt like coming down with a cold, 2 weeks ago. That night when I first felt it I also felt tired, had a headache, heavy head, and a couple of new tender lymph nodes in my neck.

A few days into this cold, I had nausea and vomiting, and one time when I vomited I forced myself pretty badly and I felt it hurting again, more intensely, on the same side inside my chest, then it went away in a few minutes.

Then I didn't really have any other symptoms for a week, my cold also cleared, (I did get some occasional shortness of breath but I also suffer from anxiety) and this morning I slept on my right side in a more unusual position and when I woke up to change my position I felt this uncomfortable tickling feeling on the same right side and felt like coughing when I inspired.

I don't have a cough and I don't normally have any pain when I breathe in and out.

I have made an appointment to see a specialist doctor next week but I'm a bit worried of what it could be. I even thought about lymphoma in the chest, but it wouldn't have hurt/appeared at the same time as the cold symptoms, right?

I'm 28, smoked for 8 years but quit 4 years ago.

ANSWER: Hi Rebecca,

More than anything, if you also had nausea and vomiting, to me it sounds like you may have Pneumonia...especially if you have chest tenderness, which usually comes from a hacking cough. waiting until next week to be seen for something that has been going on and is going on now is a bad idea. By then, you may either be better...or markedly worse. Just to be safe, I'd push that appointment up if I were you. I hope this helps.

Lemme know how it goes!  

Larry, RRT

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Thank you so much for answering!

I will push for an earlier appointment.

The episode with the nausea and vomiting only lasted one night, but it was quite intense. I also had a mild fever that night -99.5. I actually thought it was a case of food poisoning but maybe it was related to my previous symptoms.

Can I have pneumonia even if I don't have a persistent cough? Or continuous fever?

One last question - is it possible to diagnose pneumonia without an X-ray? I might be pregnant and I wish I didn't have one.

Hi Rebecca,

Generally, it is common to have a short-term low-grade fever (less than 100) with Pneumonia. If you are an essentially healthy adult, you r body is sometimes strong enough for the fever will often go away on its own...or simply, a few doses of Tylenol or Advil can drop the fever pretty quickly. A persistent cough is not necessary for Pnemonia, it's just one of the more common traits. Have you been tested for the Flu? Did you get a Flu vaccine this year? Pnemonia can be diagnosed with a sputum sample, chest x-ray, fever or any combination of those. But chest x-ray tends to tell us the most about what's really going on inside the chest.

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Larry W. Wical, BA-RRT


I CAN answer: ALL questions and queries related to the following topics... - Oxygen - Asthma - COPD - Bronchitis - Emphysema - Pneumonia (Viral/Bacterial) - Tuberculosis (TB) - SARS - Influenza (Flu) - Vaccines - Pulmonary Embolism - Pleural Effusion - Atelectasis - Inhalation injuries (burns, chemicals, etc.) - PFTs - Cardiovascular health - Sleep Apnea - BiPap/CPAP - Ventilators ("Respirators") - Aspiration injuries - Thoracic injuries - Lung contusions - Tracheal injuries - Artificial Tracheostomy - Secretions - Prolotherapy/Regenerative Injection Therapy (RIT): A patient's experience/perspective - General health and fitness I CANNOT answer: Questions that vary too far from my primary scope of pulmonary and cardiovascular care and fitness. I promise to be open and honest about my knowledge of submitted topics, and will always openly provide my personal as well as professional feedback as it relates.


Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT, RCP) since 2005. I have worked primarily in the acute care, critical care, burn care and home care settings.

NBRC - National Board of Respiratory Care AARC - American Association of Respiratory Care

-All About Kids Magazine -The Clermont Sun -Cincy Sports & Fitness Magazine -Many online Fitness and Health blogs and "webazines"

- B.A. in Communication (1997) - A.A.S. in Respiratory Science (2005) - RRT license (state of OH, KY and IN) - Basic Life Saving (BLS) - Advanced Cardiovascular Life Support (ACLS) - Advanced Burn Life Support (ABLS)

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Currently work in the city's largest academic/research hospital.

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