Pneumonia symptoms

What is pneumonia? Symptoms, treatments and causes of the infection that prevented Sir Tom Moore from getting a Covid vaccine

An NHS staff member wipes her eyes as she holds a sign thanking British veteran Captain Sir Tom Moore for his fundraising efforts. (Photo: Getty Images)

Captain Sir Tom Moore became a national treasure during the first national lockdown when he raised over £ 30million for the NHS by walking 100 tours of his garden.

The West Yorkshire native, born in Keighley, inspired a nation amid the coronavirus pandemic and was knighted for his efforts by the Queen at Windsor Castle in July.

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Following his sad passing, it emerged that the inspiring WWII veteran was being treated for pneumonia and tested positive for Covid-19 before his death, aged 100.

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His family said he was unable to get the Covid-19 vaccine due to other drugs he was receiving for pneumonia at the time.

The NHS describes pneumonia as “inflammation of the lungs, usually caused by infection”.

In a normal year, pneumonia affects between five and 11 in 1,000 adults and is more common in the fall and winter.

In a 2018 newspaper interviewDr Richard Russell, consultant chest physician and medical director of the British Lung Foundation, said: “Pneumonia is a type of lung infection that affects the tiny air sacs in the lungs.

“When someone has pneumonia, those alveoli inflame and fill with fluid. This makes it harder to breathe and can make patients very sick. In some cases, it can be fatal.

“People with lung disease are at increased risk for the flu which can sometimes lead to pneumonia.”

What are the symptoms of pneumonia?

Symptoms of pneumonia can develop faster than other lung infections and include a dry cough, difficulty breathing, and a rapid heartbeat.

A high temperature, sweating, chills, loss of appetite, and chest pain are also common symptoms to be aware of with pneumonia.

Less common symptoms include coughing up blood, headache, fatigue, nausea or vomiting, wheezing, joint and muscle pain, feeling confused and disoriented.

The NHS says pneumonia is usually the result of a bacterial infection, but symptoms can be caused by other means as well.

These include viral pneumonia, caused by a virus such as Covid-19, aspiration pneumonia (breathing in a harmful substance), fungal pneumonia (rare in the UK) and nosocomial pneumonia.

What are the treatments to fight against pneumonia?

Mild cases of pneumonia can usually be treated at home by getting plenty of rest, taking antibiotics, and drinking plenty of fluids.

Groups at risk – such as young children, the elderly, smokers, people with other health conditions and weakened immune systems – may need hospital treatment.

There are many ways to stop pneumonia from developing and spreading, such as covering your mouth when coughing or sneezing, and washing your hands regularly.

Smoking and alcohol also weaken your lungs’ natural defenses against infection, so stopping or reducing these habits will reduce your chances of infection.

People at high risk for pneumonia should be offered the pneumococcal vaccine and the flu shot.