Muscle Aches, Fatigue and Shortness of Breath

Doctor rubbing eyes feeling tired.
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Muscle aches, fatigue and shortness of breath are three symptoms that often present themselves concurrently and are common to a variety of disorders or illnesses. The seasonal flu is the most common cause of this triad of symptoms, but the root of the problem may also be a more serious condition such as bronchitis, pneumonia or other viral or bacterial infection.


Seasonal Flu

The flu is caused by a virus that is transmitted through droplets of mucus or spittle, and it is typically passed by sneezing or coughing in close proximity to another person. The flu is typically accompanied by a fever, which causes the muscles of the body to feel achy. The body's attempt to fight the infection contributes to the feeling of fatigue and malaise and also contributes to shortness of breath. The symptoms associated with the flu typically begin to alleviate in just a few days. If the symptoms do not begin to subside, or if you experience persistent vomiting and diarrhea, be sure to visit your doctor ito prevent potential serious complications associated with the flu.


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Acute bronchitis is typically caused by a viral infection, while chronic bronchitis may be brought on by cigarette smoking or repeated inhalation of airborne pollutants. Both types of bronchitis involve inflammation of the bronchial airways of the lungs, which contributes to the shortness of breath. Like the flu, bronchitis may also be accompanied by a fever, which could cause muscle aches and fatigue. While bronchitis typically resolves on its own without medical intervention, you should see your doctor if you experience severe coughing or a fever lasting more than three days.



Pneumonia is a serious medical condition that involves inflammation of the tissue of the lungs, making it difficult for your body to inhale oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide effectively. There are many types of pneumonia, and it is most commonly caused by a bacterial infection. It is possible, however, for certain viruses, fungi or parasites to also produce pneumonia. It is important to pay a visit to your physician if you suspect pneumonia, because he will likely need to treat the infection with some sort of antibiotic or antiviral medication.


Other Causes

While the combination of muscle aches, fatigue and shortness of breath may not always indicate serious trouble, it is important to see your doctor to rule out a more life-threatening cause. Conditions such as Guillain-Barre syndrome, polio and lupus can also produce the same three symptoms. Reactions to certain medications, especially ACE inhibitors or cholesterol-lowering statins, may also bring about feelings of muscle aches, fatigue and shortness of breath.




Is this an emergency? If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911.

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