Pneumonia Overview

Pneumonia is a sickness that inflames the air sacs in the lungs. This can affect just one side or both. This infection causes the air sacs to fill up with fluids and/ or pus and this will cause coughing up mucus or pus. Other symptoms may include chills, fever, or difficulty breathing. Pneumonia can be mild to life-threatening. It is most commonly found in young child or adults over the age of 65 years old.

Pneumonia Symptoms

Pneumonia can be mild to life-threatening. The factors that determine the seriousness can be age, type of infection, health, etc. The mild symptoms can be those similar to the cold or the flu. You may notice chest pain especially when you are coughing or just breathing. Coughing will usually result in the coughing up of mucus. You may also experience a fever, chills, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, shortness of breath, or fatigue. In adults over the age of 65 years old, you may also experience confusion, a change in mental awareness, or a low body temperature. In younger patients, they may not show signs of any types of infections. If they do show symptoms, then they may show a fever, coughing, tired, they may not want to eat, or they may have difficulty breathing.

If your temperature goes above 102 degrees or if you are consistently coughing, then you will want to see your physician immediately. If you believe that you have pneumonia and fall into a high-risk category, then you should schedule an appointment immediately. High risk categories include: adults over the age of 65 years old or children younger than 2 years old, those that are receiving chemotherapy, those receiving medications that may suppress the immune system, or those with underlying health conditions.

Pneumonia Causes

There are many causes of pneumonia and the most common cause has to do with bacteria. The type of pneumonia that is caused by bacteria can appear on its own or you can contract this after you have recovered from the flu or a cold. Viruses, like seen in the common cold or the flu, can also cause pneumonia. This is most common in those that are less than 5 years old. Bacteria-like organisms cause what people call “Walking Pneumonia” and this is a much milder form of pneumonia, which does not require bed rest. Fungi related pneumonia is most common in those that have a weakened immune system.

Some people will also catch pneumonia from their hospital stay that began with another illness. This is a serious type of pneumonia as most people have already built up a resistance to antibiotics or because their immune system is already suppressed. This is very common in people who have to use a breathing machine in intensive care units. People that live in health care facilities for various reasons are also likely to get pneumonia because it is caused by bacteria that are very resistant to the antibiotics that they are typically on already.

If you have a health condition in which you have a problem swallowing, or you use an excessive amount of drugs or alcohol, then you may catch aspiration pneumonia. This occurs when you inhale things that should not be inhaled, such as food, drink, saliva, and vomit.

Pneumonia Risk Factors

The causes show the evident risk factors. You can see that people that are under the age of 2 years old or older than the age of 65 years old are the most likely to catch pneumonia. If you smoke, then you will want to quit smoking immediately. Those that have a weakened immune system for whatever reason, or a chronic disease are also at a high risk. You are also at a great risk if you have been hospitalized, especially if you have been on a ventilator.

Pneumonia Complications

Even though patients may go through treatment successfully, anyone may go through complications, especially those in the high-risk groups. You may have a very difficult time breathing in enough oxygen. Pneumonia can also cause a pleural effusion, which means that there will be a buildup of fluid around the lungs. The bacteria that are affecting your lungs may also enter the bloodstream and spread the infection to other parts of the body. In some cases, there will be a cavity in your lungs that will fill with pus and will need to be drained.

Pneumonia Prevention

In an effort to prevent pneumonia, you will want to stay as healthy as possible. By getting vaccinated and have your children vaccinated, that will drastically decrease the risk in which you will catch pneumonia. You will also want to get enough sleep, exercise, eat healthy, quit smoking, and practice good hygiene.

Pneumonia Diagnosis

Your appointment will begin with your physician looks at recent symptoms and health history. If pneumonia is expected, then your physician may recommend some of the following tests. A blood test will be able to tell what type of bacteria is present. A chest x-ray will show the extent of infections. If you are able to take a deep cough, then your sputum will be tested to see the cause of infection. Your physician may also recommend a pulse oximetry to see the level of oxygen in your blood to make sure you will not get sicker. If you are in a high-risk group, then your physician may also request a computerized tomography (CT) scan or a pleural fluid culture.

Pneumonia Treatment

The first step to treatment is to cure the infection that is causing the complications. Most symptoms will last a few days or weeks, but you may feel tired for the next few weeks after you are better. Some treatments that your physician may recommend include: antibiotics, cough medicine, fever reducers, or pain relievers. All of these will help your symptoms and you will be able to get better faster. In extreme cases, your physician will recommend hospitalization. If you are able to catch the illness early and treat in a timely manner, then this may be able to be avoided.