What Are the Symptoms of Pneumonia?
Pneumonia is an infection of the lungs that causes cough, fever and trouble breathing, among other symptoms. Although you may think it is something you could never get, pneumonia is one of the leading causes of hospitalizations in America. Approximately one million American adults seek hospital care every year due to pneumonia. Prompt treatment of pneumonia can mean the difference between requiring hospitalization or recovering at home.
This FAQ will help you recognize the signs and symptoms of pneumonia, available treatment options and ways to keep yourself and others healthy.
What causes pneumonia?
Pneumonia is an infection of the lungs caused by viruses, bacteria, fungi and parasites. A person who becomes ill with a cold, the flu, bacterial or other infection can develop pneumonia as a secondary illness. Pneumonia is more common from autumn through spring because there are more cases of cold and flu during this time.
Who gets pneumonia?
Anyone can get pneumonia, but some populations are at greater risk including people with chronic conditions like asthma, individuals with heart and lung disorders, premature infants, the elderly and people with compromised immune systems.
What does pneumonia feel like?
Not everyone feels the same when they have pneumonia, but there are core signs you can look out for, such as feeling like you're out of breath, generally feeling tired or sleepy and sharp, stabbing chest pain. Note, however, that "walking pneumonia" might not have obvious symptoms or just symptoms of a common cold.
Signs and Symptoms of Pneumonia
- Pain or tightness in the chest that worsens with coughing or breathing
- Cough with phlegm
- Feeling suddenly worse after having a cold or the flu
- High fever
- Shaking chills
- Shortness of breath
These are just some of the most common symptoms experienced by patients.
What are the signs of pneumonia in children?
When children have pneumonia, they can experience the same symptoms as adults including high fever, cough, difficulty breathing and pain in the chest, but they may also complain of stomach pain, ear pain, have a decreased appetite and be more tired or irritable than usual. If a child has "walking pneumonia" their symptoms may be milder and can appear like a cold. Some infants may not appear to have any symptoms beyond being restless and a decreased appetite. In extreme cases of pneumonia, infants and small children may have bluish fingernails, toenails, lips and mouth.
What are the symptoms of pneumonia in the elderly?
The elderly typically experience fever, chills, chest pain and difficulty breathing, but symptoms may be mild. When older adults have pneumonia, they are more likely to be confused, dizzy or have sudden changes in mental awareness.
Do you run a fever with pneumonia?
In both viral and bacterial pneumonia, a fever is often present. It is not, however, a "requirement." In rare cases, it is possible to have the illness without running an obvious fever, such as with infants and older adults with naturally low body temperatures.
Does pneumonia cause chest pain?
Chest pain is one of the most common symptoms of pneumonia. Chest pain is caused by the membranes in the lungs filling with fluid. This creates pain that can feel like a heaviness or stabbing sensation and usually worsens with coughing, breathing or laughing.
Does pneumonia cause vomiting?
Though not a classic symptom of pneumonia, vomiting can occur due to nausea. Nausea or dizziness is a more common symptom of pneumonia, which can sometimes lead to vomiting.
How do you treat pneumonia?
Treatment for pneumonia depends on the cause. If pneumonia is caused by a bacterial infection, antibiotics will be prescribed to kill the harmful bacteria. If pneumonia is caused by a viral infection, time and rest are best for recovery. Fever reducing medications and cough medications can help relieve symptoms and aid sleep.
How can I prevent pneumonia?
- Practice good hygiene. Wash your hands, distance yourself from people who are ill, cough into your mouth and refrain from touching your eyes, mouth and nose. Following the same recommendations to reduce flu risk can also reduce the risk of developing pneumonia.
- Get a flu shot. The flu shot is a safe and effective way to prevent the flu. Since the flu is one cause of pneumonia, a flu shot can prevent you from getting the flu and minimize your risk of pneumonia
- Get a pneumococcal vaccine. A pneumococcal vaccine cannot protect you from all causes of pneumonia, but it can minimize your risk of developing pneumonia from the most common strains. There are vaccinations developed for specific age groups. The Centers for Disease Control recommends the following routine pneumonia vaccinations:
Pneumococcal conjugate vaccination for:
- All babies and children younger than 2 years old
- People 2 years or older with certain medical conditions
Pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccination for:
- All adults 65 years or older
- People 2 through 64 years old with certain medical conditions
- Adults 19 through 64 years old who smoke cigarettes
If you have been experiencing pneumonia symptoms, make an appointment with your provider today. Prompt treatment of pneumonia is important for recovery. Request an appointment with a family medicine provider to receive your flu and pneumococcal vaccinations.