An infection that inflames the lungs’ air sacs, also called alveoli, is called pneumonia. Fluid or pus may be filled in the air sacs, causing symptoms such as a cough, fever, chills and trouble breathing.
Symptoms – Pneumonia
Symptoms of pneumonia can differ from so being mild that they can be barely noticed, to being so severe that hospitalization is required. Infection caused in the body responding to pneumonia depends on the type germ, the age and the overall health.
The signs and symptoms of pneumonia may include:
- Cough, which might produce greenish, yellow or even bloody mucus
- Fever, sweating and shaking chills
- Shortness of breath
- Rapid, shallow breathing
- Chest pain which is sharp or stabbing that gets worse when breathing deeply or coughing
- Appetite loss, low energy, and fatigue
- Nausea and vomiting, especially in small children
- Confusion, especially in older people
The most common form of pneumonia is bacterial pneumonia which tends to be more serious than other types of pneumonia, with symptoms in which medical care is required. Development of symptoms of bacterial pneumonia can be gradually or suddenly. Fever can occur and rise as high as a dangerous 105 degrees F, with abundant sweating and rapidly increased breathing and pulse rate. Due to lack of oxygen in the blood the lips and nailbeds may have a bluish color. A mental state of the patient may be confused or delirious.
The symptoms usually develop over a period of several days for viral pneumonia. Early symptoms are same as that to influenza symptoms: fever, a dry cough, headache, muscle pain, and weakness. Within a day or two, the symptom starts getting worse, with increasing cough shortness of breath and muscle pain. High fever and blueness of the lips may appear.
Symptoms may differ in specific populations. Any signs of the infection may not be shown in newborns and infants. But some signs may appear such as, they may vomit, have a fever and cough, or appear restless, sick, or tired and without energy. Fewer and mild symptoms may be in older adults and people who have serious illnesses or weak immune systems. They may even have a temperature which is lower than normal. Sudden changes in mental awareness may occur in older adults who are having pneumonia. The symptoms may become worse for individuals that already have a chronic lung disease
if symptoms of pneumonia are present in the adult and child, don’t wait for the disease to get even worse before seeking care. Call the doctor. And see the doctor right away if facing difficulty in breathing, developing a bluish color in the lips and fingertips, having chest pain, a high fever, or a cough with mucus that is severe or is getting worse.
It’s necessary to get medical attention for pneumonia if falling under a high-risk group, including adults older than age 65, children age two or younger, people with an underlying health condition or weakened immune system. For some of these individuals who are vulnerable, pneumonia can rapidly become a life-threatening condition.
Pneumonia – Diagnosed
Sometimes pneumonia can be hard to diagnose as the symptoms are so variable, and are often same as that to those seen in a cold or influenza. In order to identify the germ that is causing the illness, the doctor will ask questions about the medical history; conduct a physical exam, and running some tests for diagnosing pneumonia.
The doctor will examine and will ask questions regarding the signs and symptoms and how and when they began. To help in finding out that infection is caused by bacteria, viruses or fungi, some questions about possible exposures might be asked, such as:
- Any recent travel
- Contact with animals
- Exposure to other sick people at home, work or school
- Any recent illnesses
The lungs will be heard by the doctor with a stethoscope. If having pneumonia, the lungs may make crackling, bubbling, and rumbling sounds when inhaling.
If pneumonia is suspected by the doctor, they will probably suggest some tests to confirm the diagnosis and learn more about the infection. These may include:
- Blood tests to assure the infection and to try to identify the germ that is causing the illness.
- X-ray of the chest to look for the location and magnitude of inflammation in the lungs.
- Pulse oximetry to help in measuring the oxygen level in the blood. Pneumonia can prevent the lungs from operating enough oxygen into the bloodstream.
- Sputum test is conducted on a sample of mucus (sputum) taken after a deep cough, to look for the source of the infection.
Due to age and overall health if considered as a high risk patient, or if hospitalized, the doctors might need to do some additional tests, including:
- CT scan of the chest to get a better view of the lungs and look for soreness or other complications.
- Arterial blood gas test is taken for measuring the amount of oxygen in a blood sample which is taken from an artery, usually in the wrist. This is more accurate as compared to the simpler pulse oximetry.
- Pleural fluid culture removes a small amount of fluid from around tissues that surround the lung, to evaluate and identify a bacterium which is causing the pneumonia.
- Bronchoscopy is a procedure used for looking into the airways of the lungs. If hospitalized and the treatment is not working well, doctors may want to investigate whether something else is affecting the airways, such as a blockage. Fluid samples or a biopsy of lung tissue may also be taken
Pneumonia – Treatment
When getting a pneumonia diagnosis, the doctor will devise a treatment plan. Treatment for pneumonia dependent on the type, how sick is being felt, age, and whether having other health conditions. The aim of treatment is to cure the infection and prevent complications. It is necessary to follow the treatment plan carefully until fully recovered.
Any medications prescribed by the doctor should be taken. If the cause of pneumonia is bacteria, an antibiotic will be given. It is important to consume all the antibiotic until it is finished, even though starting to feel better in a couple of days. If it is stopped, the risk of having the infection may come back, and the chances will increase that the germs will be resistant to treatment in the future.
Classic antibiotics do not operate against viruses. If having viral pneumonia, an antiviral medication will be prescribed by the doctor to treat it. Sometimes, though, symptom management and rest are all that is required.
Symptoms such as fever and cough can be managed by most people at home by following below steps:
- Controlling fever with aspirin, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen or naproxen), or acetaminophen. Aspirin should not be given to children
- Plenty of fluids should be drank to help loosen secretions and bring up phlegm.
- Cough medicines should be taken without first talking to the doctor. Coughing is one way the body works in getting rid of an infection. If rest is getting disturbed by coughing, ask the doctor about steps that can be taken to get relief.
- Warm beverages should be consumed, steamy baths should be taken and a humidifier should be uses to help open the airways and ease the breathing. If the breathing gets worse instead of getting better over time, the doctor should be contacted immediately.
- Smoke should be avoided to let the lungs heal. This includes smoking, secondhand smoke and wood smoke. Talk to the doctor if smoking and having trouble staying smokefree while recovery.
- Lots of rest should be taken. Bed rest may be needed for a while. Get as much help as possible with meal preparation and household chores until feeling stronger. It is crucial not to overdo daily activities until fully recovered.
Intravenous fluids and antibiotics may be given if the pneumonia is so severe to get hospitalized, as well as oxygen therapy, and possibly other breathing treatments.
Recovering – Pneumonia
Recovery from pneumonia may take time. Some people feel better and are able to resume their normal routines within a week. For other people, it might take a month or more. Most people may continue to feel tired for almost a month. To maintain progress toward full recovery and to avoid relapsing, adequate rest is critical. Recovery should not be rushed. Talk with the doctor about when normal routines can be resumed
During the recovery, try to limit contact with family and friends, to help prevent the germs from spreading to other people. Mouth and nose should be covered when coughing, promptly dispose of tissues in a closed waste container and wash hands often.
If antibiotics have been taken then the doctor will want to ensure that the chest X-ray is normal again after completing the whole prescription. It may take several weeks for X-ray to clear up.
Possible Complications – Pneumonia
People who are more likely to have complications from pneumonia include:
- Older adults or very young children.
- People whose immune system is weak
- People with other, serious medical problems such as diabetes or cirrhosis of the liver.
Possible complications include:
- Respiratory failure requiring a breathing machine or ventilator.
- A condition in which there is uncontrolled inflammation in the body known as sepsis, which may lead to widespread organ failure.
- Acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), a severe type of respiratory failure.
- Lung soreness, which are irregular, but serious complications of pneumonia. They appear when pockets of pus develop inside or around the lung. These may be needed to be drained with surgery sometimes