What is Pneumonia?
Pneumonia is an infection in one or both of your lungs caused by bacteria, a virus, or fungi. It causes the air sacs, or alveoli, of the lungs to fill up with fluid or pus. It can have more than 30 different causes, which is vital to understand because it will determine the type of treatment.
Most of the time, your nose and airways filter germs out of the air you breathe, which in turn keeps your lungs from becoming infected. If you have a weakened immune system, your body fails to filter out germs, or if there is a germ that is very strong or present in large amounts, then an infection is more likely to occur.
With pneumonia, the germs cause your lungs’ air sacs to become inflamed and full of fluid, which can cause coughing, fever chills, and difficulty breathing. Oxygen may also have trouble reaching your blood, and with too little oxygen your cells can’t work properly. This can cause infection to spread throughout the body, and can sometimes be deadly.
While anyone can develop pneumonia, there are many factors that can affect how serious the infection is such as the type of germ that caused it, your age, and overall health. There are also several symptoms that can occur when you get the infection. If you believe you have developed pneumonia, you should consult with your doctor as quickly as possible.
Signs and symptoms of pneumonia can be mild to severe. Mild symptoms can mimic the flu, but will likely last much longer.
Symptoms that may be related to pneumonia:
- Coughing that produces phlegm
- Chest pain when breathing or coughing
- Fever, sweating, and shaking chills
- Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
- Shortness of breath
Pneumonia Symptoms in Kids
Children are extremely susceptible to acquiring an infection, especially pneumonia caused by bacteria, as it is most easily spread by contact. Children can also get an infection through a virus, though, so making sure they are seen by a physician to determine the cause is essential.
Mild symptoms of pneumonia in kids:
- Sore throat
- Nasal congestion
- Loss of appetite
More severe symptoms of pneumonia in kids:
- High fever
- Sweating or chills
- Flushed skin
- Difficulty breathing
- A bluish tint to the lips or nail beds
Pneumonia Symptoms in Babies
Often newborns and infants do not show any signs of pneumonia. It can be difficult to determine since they are unable to communicate how they feel, although there are still some symptoms that can indicate an infection. An infection can grow particularly fast in infants, as their immune systems aren’t fully developed, so it is crucial to get them to a physician or emergency room as quickly as possible.
Pneumonia symptoms in babies include:
- Crying more than usual
- Looking pale
- Being limp or lethargic
- Feeding poorly
Causes of Pneumonia
Pneumonia can be caused by bacteria, a virus, or fungi. The type of infection you have will determine how severe it is, as well as what treatment you may need.
Bacteria is the most common cause of pneumonia in adults, and there are several different types of bacteria that can cause the infection; with Streptococcus pneumoniae or pneumococcus bacteria being the most common in the United States. This type of pneumonia can occur after you’ve had a cold or the flu, or it can develop on its own. This type of Pneumonia is typically classified by its tendency to only affect one lobe of the lung.
A virus that causes a respiratory infection may cause pneumonia. The flu or a cold is the most common cause of viral pneumonia in adults and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is the most common in children under one. Most cases of viral pneumonia are mild, but in some serious cases may require hospitalization. Having viral pneumonia can also increase your chances of developing bacterial pneumonia.
This type of pneumonia is common in people with chronic health issues, weakened immune systems, or people who inhale large quantities of the organism. The fungi that cause it can be found in bird droppings or soil and depends on your geographic location.
Risk Factors for Pneumonia
There are several risk factors that make someone more prone to having pneumonia than others. It’s important to be aware of these risk factors so you can take proper precautions.
These risk factors include:
- A recent viral respiratory infection such as the flu or a cold
- Weakened immune system
- Cigarette smoking
- Being younger than two or older than 65
- Chronic disease
Recovery time for pneumonia is determined by age, general health, and the cause. In general, it can take anywhere from a week to a month for symptoms to go away, and in some cases it can require hospitalization. Antibiotics are often prescribed for bacterial pneumonia; it is critical to finish the entire prescription, even if you are feeling better.
Sometimes an inhaler can be recommended to help loosen tight air passages, but always use as directed and not more than is necessary. Steroids may also be prescribed to reduce inflammation. Non-prescription cough or cold medicines may also help alleviate symptoms. Usually, with an antibiotic, your symptoms will start to clear up in a few days.
If you have viral pneumonia, then antibiotics won’t work. Doctors may prescribe an antiviral medicine to treat it and usually, these symptoms subside in one to three weeks.
If your symptoms are severe or you’re at risk for complications due to other health conditions, you may require hospitalization. It is imperative not to overlook these symptoms in order to be treated properly and with the best care.
Here are some steps to help you recover from pneumonia quickly and efficiently:
- Get plenty of rest.
- Avoid smoking environments.
- Follow your treatment plan given to you by your doctor.
- Make sure to take all the prescribed medicine by your doctor.
- Ask your doctor when you should schedule follow-up care.
The Urgency Room has a trained emergency provider and the ability to quickly evaluate and treat your pneumonia.
Go to the nearest Urgency Room immediately if:
- You have cough or fever that seem more severe than a minor cold
- You have trouble breathing
- You were diagnosed with pneumonia and are getting worse despite the treatments prescribed
- You are feeling weak
- New symptoms arise such as chest pain, blood, or vomiting
Pneumonia is a serious illness and it is important to remember that everyone recovers at different paces, and for some, they can feel tired for up to a month. Talk with your doctor about when would be the appropriate time to go back to your normal routine.
Diagnose Pneumonia at The Urgency Room
Pneumonia can be serious, so if you suspect you might have an infection don’t wait to treat it. Head to your nearest Urgency Room and avoid long wait times. We can assess, determine the cause of your infection, and make sure you get the proper treatment all under the same roof.
We are open 365 days a year with three convenient locations in Woodbury, Vadnais Heights, and Eagan. Avoid spending long hours in the waiting room and get the quality care you deserve. At The Urgency Room you will be provided with exceptional medical care by board-certified emergency physicians in a state-of-the-art out-of-hospital experience.