Pneumonia, a lung infection, can cause coughing, hacking, or wheezing. You might think it’s just a cold or the flu. How can you tell the difference? Your other symptoms may give you clues.
Common symptoms of pneumonia
Symptoms of pneumonia can range from mild to severe, depending on the cause of the condition and your general health. They may include:
- High fever, up to 105 F
- Coughing up greenish, yellow, or bloody mucus
- Chills that make you tremble
- Feeling like you can’t catch your breath, especially when you move around a lot
- feel very tired
- Loss of appetite
- Sharp or stabbing chest pain (you might feel it more when you cough or breathe deeply)
- Sweat a lot
- Rapid breathing and heart rate
- Lips and fingernails turn blue
- Confusion (in the elderly)
Bacterial vs Viral Pneumonia Symptoms
Bacteria and viruses are the most common causes of pneumonia. Fungi and parasites can sometimes be the cause.
When the cause is bacterial, the disease can appear slowly or quickly. It tends to be more severe than the other types.
When a virus is causing your pneumonia, you are more likely to notice symptoms over several days. The first signs will be like those of the flu, such as fever, dry cough, headache and weakness, but get worse within a day or two.
Symptoms of pneumonia in children
When children have pneumonia, their symptoms can be harder to spot. They may have:
Symptoms in babies can be vague, such as irritability or difficulty feeding.
Pneumonia vs Cold and Flu Symptoms
This is tricky, because pneumonia can be a complication of colds and flu. This happens when the germs that cause these common illnesses enter your lungs. You may feel better, but you start having symptoms again – and this time they may be much worse.
Cold symptoms tend to start slowly. You are more likely to sneeze and have a runny nose and sore throat than with the flu or pneumonia. Colds don’t usually cause a fever in adults.
The main clue that you have the flu is that the symptoms appear strong, seemingly out of nowhere. You can have :
- Fever over 100.4 F
- Severe aches and pains
- Extreme tiredness
- Dry, jerky cough
These symptoms tend to subside within 2-5 days, but you may have a mild cough or sore throat for 2 weeks.
When to call your doctor
Call your doctor right away if you or your child have a cold or flu that doesn’t get better with rest and treatment, if symptoms start to get worse, if you have other medical conditions, or a weakened immune system , or if you notice possible symptoms of pneumonia. Anyone with this lung infection needs medical attention.