When To See A Doctor
Anyone who has difficulty breathing should seek medical help for diagnosis and treatment.
It is essential to follow any medical treatment plan that the doctor recommends and request additional help if the symptoms worsen or do not improve after a few days.
A doctor can also advise on some ways to prevent pneumonia from developing again.
It is not always possible to prevent pneumonia, but some lifestyle choices can reduce the risk of developing it or experiencing severe symptoms.
- avoiding air pollution, if possible
- managing stress levels and getting enough sleep
- practicing good hand-washing to reduce the risk of infection
- following any instructions the doctor recommends for staying healthy
In the case of COVID-19, experts advise physical distancing from other people to prevent the spread of the virus.
Healthful lifestyle habits can help strengthen the body to fight off infections, including those that lead to pneumonia.
When Should I See My Doctor
Pneumonia can be life-threatening if left untreated, especially for certain at-risk people. You should call your doctor if you have a cough that wont go away, shortness of breath, chest pain, or a fever. You should also call your doctor if you suddenly begin to feel worse after having a cold or the flu.
Causes And Risk Factors Of Pneumonia
How do you get pneumonia? The majority of the germs that cause infection are spread from person to person through droplets, from coughing or sneezing.
- A weakened immune system due to human immunodeficiency virus or cancer
People who smoke are at higher risk for pneumonia, as are people on immunosuppressive medications, and people who are frequently in close, crowded spaces with others, such as college students and military personnel.
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How Is Viral Pneumonia Treated
Viral pneumonias are more likely to be treated at home, and not at the hospital.
Viral pneumonia caused by the flu can be treated with an antiviral medication called Tamiflu , but for many other viral pneumonias, your doctor can only treat the symptoms. This means drinking lots of fluids, eating well, resting, taking medication for pain or fever, and treating breathing difficulties.
Viral pneumonia may take one to three weeks to clear completely.
Mycoplasmal pneumonia is caused by Mycoplasma pneumoniae, which was originally thought to be a virus or a fungus, but has since been classified as a bacteria. Also called atypical pneumonia, it’s a mild and common type that’s most likely to affect children and young adults.
This type of pneumonia can be treated with several types of antibiotics, and usually doesn’t require hospitalization.
What Are The Stages Of Pneumonia
Pneumonia can be classified or characterized in different ways. Health care professionals often refer to pneumonia based upon the way that the infection is acquired, such as community-acquired pneumonia or hospital-acquired pneumonia.
- Community-acquired pneumonia , as the name implies, is a respiratory infection of the lung that develops outside of the hospital or health care environment. It is more common than hospital-acquired pneumonia. CAP is most common in winter and affects about 4 million people a year in the U.S.
- Hospital-acquired pneumonia is acquired when an individual is already hospitalized for another condition. HAP is generally more serious because it develops in ill patients already hospitalized or under medical care for another condition. Being on a ventilator for respiratory support increases the risk of acquiring HAP. Health care-associated pneumonia is acquired from other health care settings, like kidney dialysis centers, outpatient clinics, or nursing homes.
Other classification systems for pneumonia describe the way the inflammatory cells infiltrate the lung tissue or the appearance of the affected tissue .
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What Is The Outlook For Pneumonia
People who are otherwise healthy often recover quickly when given prompt and proper care. However, pneumonia is a serious condition and can be life-threatening if left untreated and especially for those individuals at increased risk for pneumonia.
Even patients who have been successfully treated and have fully recovered may face long-term health issues. Children who have recovered from pneumonia have an increased risk of chronic lung diseases. Adults may experience:
- General decline in quality of life for months or years
Limit Contact With Others
One of the best things you can do when recovering from pneumonia is to limit your contact with others. As weve learned throughout the COVID-19 pandemicwhich can cause viral pneumoniastaying at least six feet away from others reduces the amount of viral or bacterial content they are exposed to as you breathe or talk.
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Cover Your Mouth And Nose
While the preferred method for covering your mouth when you cough or sneeze is into a tissue, not everyone can get to tissues in time when the urge to cough or sneeze hits. If you have the urge to cough or sneezeand a tissue isnt availablethe next best thing is to cover your mouth or nose with the inside of your elbow.
Coughing or sneezing into your elbow will decrease the chances of your leaving traces of your infection on door handles, faucets, or anything else you touch.
Bronchitis Vs Pneumonia: Why Theyre Related And How Theyre Different
A pneumonia diagnosis is based on your medical history, a physical exam, and certain test results. Your doctor determines which type of pneumonia you have based on how you became infected, what your X-ray or lung exam reveals, and which kind of germ is responsible for your infection.
During a physical exam, your doctor will check your vital signs and listen to your lungs with a stethoscope. Decreased breath sounds is an indication of a lot of inflammation, says Michelle Barron, MD, a professor in the division of infectious diseases at University of Colorado School of Medicine in Aurora.
If your doctor suspects pneumonia, they may order further diagnostic tests, such as a chest X-ray to help determine the extent of the infection. Blood tests and an analysis of the patients sputum can pinpoint whats causing the pneumonia. Pulse oximetry measures the oxygen level in your blood .
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Are Vaccines Available To Prevent Pneumonia
Yes, there are two types of vaccines specifically approved to prevent pneumonia caused by pneumococcal bacteria. Similar to a flu shot, these vaccines wont protect against all types of pneumonia, but if you do come down with pneumonia, its less likely to be as severe or potentially life-threatening especially for people who are at increased risk for pneumonia.
- Bacterial pneumonia: Two pneumonia vaccines, Pneumovax23® and Prevnar13®, protect against the most common causes of bacterial pneumonia.
- Pneumovax23® protects against 23 different types of pneumococcal bacteria. It is recommended for all adults 65 years of age and older and children over 2 years of age who are at increased risk for pneumonia.
- Prevnar13® protects against 13 types of pneumonia bacteria. It is recommended for all adults 65 years of age and older and children under 2 years of age. Ask your healthcare provider about these vaccines.
If you have children, ask their doctor about other vaccines they should get. Several childhood vaccines help prevent infections caused by the bacteria and viruses that can lead to pneumonia.
When Can I Return To Work School And Regular Activities If I Have Pneumonia
You typically can resume your normal activities if your symptoms are gone, mild or improving and you do not have new or worsening:
- Shortness of breath or tiredness
- Chest pain
- Mucus, fever or cough
If you are generally healthy, most people feel well enough to return to previous activities in about a week. However, it may take about a month to feel totally back to normal.
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What Can I Do At Home To Feel Better
In addition to taking any antibiotics and/or medicine your doctor prescribes, you should also:
- Get lots of rest. Rest will help your body fight the infection.
- Drink plenty of fluids. Fluids will keep you hydrated. They can help loosen the mucus in your lungs. Try water, warm tea, and clear soups.
- Stop smoking if you smoke and avoid secondhand smoke. Smoke can make your symptoms worse. Smoking also increases your risk of developing pneumonia and other lung problems in the future. You should also avoid lit fireplaces or other areas where the air may not be clean.
- Stay home from school or work until your symptoms go away. This usually means waiting until your fever breaks and you arent coughing up mucus. Ask your doctor when its okay for you to return to school or work.
- Use a cool-mist humidifier or take a warm bath. This will help clear your lungs and make it easier for you to breathe.
How Is Pneumonia Diagnosed
Pneumonia can sometimes be hard to diagnose because the symptoms are the same as for a bad cold or flu. If you think it could be pneumonia, you should see your doctor. Your doctor may diagnose pneumonia based on your medical history and the results from a physical exam. He or she will listen to your lungs with a stethoscope. Your doctor may also do some tests, such as a chest X-ray or a blood test. A chest X-ray can show your doctor if you have pneumonia and how widespread the infection is. Blood and mucus tests can help your doctor tell whether bacteria, a virus, or a fungal organism is causing your pneumonia.
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Can I Prevent Pneumonia
The routine vaccinations that most people receive as kids help prevent certain types of pneumonia and other infections. If you have a chronic illness, such as sickle cell disease, you may have received extra vaccinations and disease-preventing antibiotics to help prevent pneumonia and other infections caused by bacteria.
People should get a pneumococcal vaccination if they have diseases that affect their immune system , are 65 years or older, or are in other high-risk groups. Depending on the bugs that are likely to affect them, these people also may get antibiotics to prevent pneumonia, as well as antiviral medicine to prevent or lessen the effects of viral pneumonia.
Doctors recommend that everyone 6 months and older get an annual flu shot. That’s because someone with the flu could then come down with pneumonia. Call your doctor’s office or check your local health department to see when these vaccines are available.
Because pneumonia is often caused by germs, a good way to prevent it is to keep your distance from anyone you know who has pneumonia or other respiratory infections. Use separate drinking glasses and eating utensils wash your hands often with warm, soapy water and avoid touching used tissues and paper towels.
You also can stay strong and help avoid some of the illnesses that might lead to pneumonia by eating as healthily as possible, getting a minimum of 8 to 10 hours of sleep a night, and not smoking.
When To Call The Doctor
You should call your childs doctor if your child:
- Has trouble breathing or is breathing much faster than usual
- Has a bluish or gray color to the fingernails or lips
- Is older than 6 months and has a fever over 102°F
- Is younger than 6 months and has a temperature over 100.4°F.
- Has a fever for more than a few days after taking antibiotics
When your child should stay home and return to school or childcare
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Taking Care Of Yourself At Home
If you have a bacterial chest infection, you should start to feel better 24 to 48 hours after starting on antibiotics. You may have a cough for days or weeks. For other types of chest infections, the recovery is more gradual. You may feel weak for some time and need a longer period of bed rest.Be guided by your doctor, but general self-care suggestions include:
- Take your medication as directed. Even if you feel better, finish the course of antibiotics.
- Drink plenty of fluids.
- Rest for a few days.
- Prop yourself up on a couple of pillows at night it will make it easier to sleep.
- Stop smoking, at least until you feel better, if you cant give up at this stage.
- Contact your local doctor if you have any concerns or questions.
- Go straight to your local doctor or the nearest hospital emergency department if you have trouble breathing, have a high fever or feel worse.
How Is Fungal Pneumonia Treated
If the course of the pneumonia is slow and your chest X-ray looks unusual, you may have fungal pneumonia. These conditions can be diagnosed with a blood test that shows your body is making antibodies to the fungus.
More than 10 types of fungi can cause fungal pneumonia, which is more common in people with weakened immune systems.
Several antifungal drugs serve as treatment for pneumonia and can be administered either orally or intravenously.
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What To Expect When Treating Pneumonia At Home
There are things that make you feel bad when treating pneumonia at home, but these dont necessarily require any change in treatment:
How Can I Manage My Symptoms
- Rest as needed. Rest often while you recover. Slowly start to do more each day.
- Drink liquids as directed. Ask how much liquid to drink each day and which liquids are best for you. Liquids help thin your mucus, which may make it easier for you to cough it up.
- Do not smoke. Avoid secondhand smoke. Smoking makes it harder for you to get better. Nicotine and other chemicals in cigarettes and cigars can cause lung damage. Ask your healthcare provider for information if you currently smoke and need help to quit. E-cigarettes or smokeless tobacco still contain nicotine. Talk to your healthcare provider before you use these products.
- Use a cool mist humidifier. A humidifier will help increase air moisture in your home. This may make it easier for you to breathe and help decrease your cough.
- Keep your head elevated. You may be able to breathe better if you lie down with the head of your bed up.
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How Can I Help Myself Feel Better
If your doctor has prescribed medicine, follow the directions carefully.
You may feel better in a room with a humidifier, which increases the moisture in the air and soothes irritated lungs. Make sure you drink plenty of fluids, especially if you have a fever. If you have a fever and feel uncomfortable, ask the doctor whether you can take over-the-counter medicine such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen to bring it down. But don’t take any medicine without checking first with your doctor a cough suppressant, for example, may not allow your lungs to clear themselves of mucus.
And finally, be sure to rest. This is a good time to sleep, watch TV, read, and lay low. If you treat your body right, it will repair itself and you’ll be back to normal in no time.
What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of Pneumonia In Children
The signs and symptoms of pneumonia in children vary from child to child and also depend on your childs age, cause of the infection, and severity of their illness.
Usual symptoms include:
- Cry more than usual. Are restless or more fussy.
Adolescents have the same symptoms as adults, including:
- Difficulty breathing/shortness of breath.
- Chest pain.
Newborns are at greater risk of pneumonia caused by bacteria present in the birth canal. In young children, viruses are the main cause of pneumonia.
Pneumonia caused by bacteria tends to happen suddenly, starting with fever and fast breathing. Symptoms appear more slowly and tend to be less severe when pneumonia is caused by viruses.
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What Is The Treatment For Pneumonia
Antibiotic medications are the treatment of choice for pneumonia caused by bacterial and fungal infections. The exact choice of medications depends on many factors, including the following:
- The organism responsible for the infection
- The likelihood that the organism is resistant to certain antibiotics
- The patient’s underlying health condition
About 80% of cases of CAP can be managed at home with the patient taking oral antibiotics. There are numerous treatment regimens available. Initial treatment is called empiric treatment and is based upon the organisms most likely to be responsible for the illness. Once the exact organism has been identified in the laboratory and susceptibility testing performed to determine which antibiotics are effective, the treatment regimen can be further individualized. Over-the-counterpain and fever-reducing medications may be recommended for some people in addition to antibiotics or antiviral drugs for symptom relief. Do not take cough or cold medications when suffering from pneumonia without a doctor’s approval.
In around 20% of cases, CAP must be managed in the hospital, typically with intravenous antibiotics initially. HAP care is managed in the hospital, typically with intravenous antibiotics.