Pneumonia symptoms

Pneumonia: symptoms, causes and treatments

Pneumonia is an infection of the lungs with a range of possible causes. It can be a serious and potentially fatal illness.

It normally starts with a bacterial, viral, or fungal infection.

The lungs become inflamed and the tiny air sacs, or alveoli, inside the lungs fill with fluid.

Pneumonia can occur in young and healthy people, but it is more dangerous in the elderly, infants, people with other illnesses, and those with weakened immune systems.

In the United States (US), approximately 1 million each year, people are treated in hospital for pneumonia and about 50,000 people die from the disease.

The first symptoms of pneumonia usually resemble those of a cold or the flu. The person then develops a high fever, chills and a cough accompanied by sputum.

Common symptoms include:

  • cough
  • rusty or green phlegm, or sputum, coughing from the lungs
  • fever
  • rapid breathing and shortness of breath
  • chills
  • chest pain that usually gets worse with deep breathing, known as pleuritic pain
  • rapid pulse
  • fatigue and weakness
  • nausea and vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • sweat
  • headache
  • muscle pain
  • confusion or delirium, especially in the elderly
  • dark or purplish skin color, or cyanosis, due to poorly oxygenated blood

Symptoms may vary depending on other underlying conditions and the type of pneumonia.

Processing depend on the type and severity of pneumonia.

  • Bacterial types of pneumonia are usually treated with antibiotics.
  • Viral types of pneumonia are usually treated with rest and plenty of fluids. Antiviral drugs can be used against the flu.
  • Fungal types of pneumonia are usually treated with antifungal drugs.

Doctors usually prescribe over-the-counter (OTC) medications to help manage symptoms of pneumonia. These include treatments to reduce fever, reduce aches and pains, and suppress coughs.

In addition, getting plenty of rest and drinking plenty of fluids is crucial. Staying hydrated helps thin thick phlegm and mucus, making it easier to cough.

Hospitalization for pneumonia may be necessary if symptoms are particularly severe or if a person has a weakened immune system or other serious illnesses.

In the hospital, patients are usually treated with antibiotics and intravenous fluids. They may need extra oxygen.

In most children, the immune system can protect them from pneumonia. If a child develops pneumonia, it is usually due to a virus.

Symptoms include:

  • difficulty in breathing
  • not eating properly
  • to cough
  • fever
  • irritability
  • dehydration

Toddlers may complain of chest pain and vomit after coughing.

Treatment includes plenty of rest and regular fluids. The doctor may suggest over-the-counter medications for abdominal problems, but cough medications will not help. Adults should not smoke near children, especially if they have pneumonia.

Bacteria and viruses are the main causes of pneumonia. The germs that cause pneumonia can get into the alveoli and multiply after a person inhales them.

Pneumonia can be contagious. The bacteria and viruses that cause pneumonia are usually inhaled.

They can be passed by coughing and sneezing, or spreading to shared objects by touch.

The body sends out white blood cells to attack the infection. This is why the air sacs become inflamed. Bacteria and viruses fill the lung sacs with fluid and pus, causing pneumonia.

People most at risk are people who:

  • are old under 5 or over 65 year
  • smoking tobacco, consuming large amounts of alcohol, or both
  • have underlying conditions such as cystic fibrosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), asthma, or conditions that affect the kidneys, heart or liver
  • have a weakened or deteriorated immune system, for example due to AIDS, HIV or cancer
  • take drugs for gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
  • you have recently recovered from a cold or flu infection
  • suffer from malnutrition
  • were recently hospitalized in an intensive care unit
  • have been exposed to certain chemicals or pollutants

Some groups are more inclined than others to pneumonia, including natives of Alaska or some Native American ethnicities.

There are different types pneumonia, depending on their cause.

  • Bacterial pneumonia: The most common cause is bacteria Streptococcus pneumoniae (S. pneumoniae), but many different bacteria can cause pneumonia
  • Viral pneumonia: this may result from respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and influenza types A and B, known as the flu
  • Aspiration pneumonia: This can happen when a person breathes food, fluids, or stomach contents into the lungs. This guy is not contagious.
  • Fungal pneumonia: this may result from a disease such as valley fever, caused by Coccidioids mushroom.
  • Nosocomial pneumonia: this can occur in patients being treated for other conditions, for example, those related to a ventilator or a breathing apparatus.

Whatever the cause, the signs and symptoms will be similar.

There are two different vaccines to prevent pneumococcal infections, the most common bacterial cause of pneumonia.

These cover a wide variety of pneumococcal infections and are recommended for children and adults, depending on their medical condition.

  • pneumococcal conjugate vaccine, or Prevnar
  • pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine or Pneumovax

Prévnar (PCV13) is normally included in the routine immunizations of an infant.

It is recommended for children under 2, adults over 65, and those aged 2 to 64 with certain medical conditions.

Pneumovax (PPSV23) is recommended for children and adults who are at increased risk of developing pneumococcal infections.

This includes:

  • adults 65 years of age or older
  • people with diabetes
  • people with chronic heart, lung or kidney disease
  • people who drink large amounts of alcohol or smoke
  • those without spleen

The elderly between 2 and 64 years old with certain other medical conditions may be advised to have this vaccine

The vaccine may not fully protect older adults get pneumonia, but it can significantly reduce the risk of developing pneumonia and other infections caused by S. pneumoniae), including infections of the blood and brain.

In addition to vaccinations, doctors recommend:

  • regular hand washing
  • covering your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing
  • refrain from smoking
  • eat healthy
  • play sports 5 days a week
  • staying away from sputum or cough particles from other people with pneumonia

Most people recover from pneumonia by 1 to 3 weeks. People at risk of serious symptoms should make sure that they continue their vaccinations.

Doctor will ask on symptoms and medical history and will perform a physical exam.

They may suspect pneumonia if they hear heavy breathing, wheezing, crackling, or reduced breathing sounds when listening to the chest using a stethoscope.

The doctor may also check the oxygen levels in the blood with a painless monitor on the finger called a pulse oximeter.

Chest x-rays can confirm a diagnosis of pneumonia and show which areas of the lungs are affected.

A scanner of the chest can provide more detailed information.

Blood tests measure the number of white blood cells.

This helps determine the severity of the infection and whether a bacteria, virus or fungus is the likely cause.

Blood cultures can reveal whether the microorganism in the lungs has spread into the bloodstream.

Arterial blood gas (ABG) A blood test can provide a more accurate reading of the body’s oxygen and carbon dioxide levels and other factors.

A sputum analysis can determine which organism is causing pneumonia.

Bronchoscopy is sometimes used for further investigation.

A thin, flexible, and lighted tube called a bronchoscope is passed through the lungs. This allows the doctor to directly examine the infected parts of the airways and lungs. The patient is under anesthesia.

Read this article in Spanish.