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How Can I Tell If I Have Pneumonia Versus The Common Cold Or The Flu
Do I have a cold or could it be the flu or even pneumonia? Its tough to tell the difference but critical to know when to seek medical care
Watch for these ongoing symptoms that occur in pneumonia:
- Serious congestion or chest pain.
- Difficulty breathing.
- A fever of 102 or higher.
- Coughing that produces pus.
Pneumonia symptoms last longer than cold and flu. If your symptoms arent severe, its okay to try such home remedies as getting more rest, drinking more fluids and taking some over-the-counter medicines and see what happens. But if you dont see improvement in your symptoms after three to five days, or if you are experiencing more serious symptoms such as dizziness or severe difficulty breathing, see your healthcare provider. Dont let it go. Pneumonia-like symptoms in very young children or in adults older than 65 are a cause for concern. Also, pneumonia can cause permanent lung damage if left untreated for too long. And always seek immediate care if you experience chest pain or have breathing difficulties.
Debunked: 5 Myths About Pneumonia
Director of Vaccine Delivery at The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Today the global health community recognizes the third annual World Pneumonia Day with the release of two new studies on pneumonia and events in more than 15 countries calling attention to the disease, which remains the world’s leading killer of young children. Yet despite renewed global attention and its dramatic toll, pneumonia remains one of the world’s least-understood conditions.
As we recommit ourselves to defeating this deadly disease on Nov. 12, let’s tackle a few of the leading myths head-on:
Pneumonia is really just a bad cold. In fact, it’s much worse. Pneumonia is an infection of your lungs that can require antibiotics or treatment in a hospital. A “common cold” usually lasts a few days or perhaps a week or two, and causes a runny nose, sore throat, sneezing and coughing. Pneumonia, on the other hand, kills more than 50,000 Americans and more than 1 million children worldwide each year.
The confusion exists because, at its start, pneumonia symptoms can be similar to those of a cold, including cough, fever and shortness of breath. Unfortunately, that’s where the similarities end. Left untreated, most colds will run their course as the body’s immune system naturally restores health. In contrast, ignoring early signs of bacterial pneumonia can be a death sentence.
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Atypical Signs And Symptoms In Adults
For older adults and people with underlying health conditions, a cough may not be the primary symptom of pneumonia. These people may instead experience atypical signs and symptoms, such as:
- lower-than-normal body temperature
someone develops pneumonia, such as at the hospital, on dialysis, or in long term nursing care, helps doctors differentiate the cause of the infection and devise appropriate treatments.
More Severe Cases May Also Cause:
- quick breathing
- rapid heartbeat
- nausea and vomiting
Some people get a sharp pain in their chest when they breathe in and out. This may be because the thin lining between the lung and ribcage, called the pleura, is infected and inflamed. This inflammation, called pleurisy, stops your lungs moving smoothly as you breathe.
The symptoms of pneumonia are often very similar to those of other chest infections, such as bronchitis, COPD flare-ups or bronchiectasis flare-ups. To get a proper diagnosis youll need to visit your GP.
If you feel unwell with these symptoms, see your GP or call 111. If you have chest pain, a rapid heartbeat, quick breathing, shivers or confusion, get urgent advice from your GP or call 999. Take extra care if youre over 65.
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What Are The Types Of Pneumonia
Sometimes, types of pneumonia are referred to by the type of organism that causes the inflammation, such as bacterial pneumonia, viral pneumonia, or fungal pneumonia. The specific organism name may also be used to describe the types of pneumonia, such as pneumococcal pneumonia or Legionella pneumonia.
Other types of pneumonia that are commonly referenced include the following:
- Aspiration pneumonia develops as a result of inhaling food or drink, saliva, or vomit into the lungs. This occurs when the swallowing reflex is impaired, such as with brain injury or in an intoxicated person.
- Several types of bacteria, including Legionella pneumophila, Mycoplasma pneumoniae, and Chlamydophila pneumoniae, cause atypical pneumonia. It is sometimes called “walking pneumonia” and is referred to as atypical because its symptoms differ from those of other types of bacterial pneumonia.
- Pneumonia that arises from being on a ventilator for respiratory support in the intensive care setting is known as ventilator-associated pneumonia.
Things That You Can Do To Help Your Child At Home Are
- Control the fever with the proper medicine and right strength for the age of your child. Fevers lower than 101° F do not need to be treated unless the child is uncomfortable .
- Give your child plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration.
- See that your child gets lots of rest.
- Do not give over-the-counter cough medicines or other OTC medicines without asking the health provider first. The child needs to cough and bring up the phlegm. Coughing is the bodys way of clearing the infection from the lungs.
- Avoid exposing your child to tobacco smoke or other irritants in the air.
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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
How Long Will It Take Me To Recover From Aspiration Pneumonia
Most people recover from aspiration pneumonia in a week or so with treatment. Although you might be ready to return to work or school, you might still be tired for some time after a week. Many people are still tired up to a month into recovery.
Recurrent aspiration due to underlying medical or neurological conditions can be difficult to treat and needs expert care from a multidisciplinary team.
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What Increases Your Risk
You are more likely to get pneumonia if you:
- Smoke. Cigarette smoking is a strong risk factor for pneumonia in healthy young people.
- Have another medical condition, especially lung diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or asthma.
- Are younger than 1 year of age or older than 65.
- Have an impaired immune system.
- Take medicine called a proton pump inhibitor that reduces the amount of stomach acid.footnote 3, footnote 4
- Drink excessive amounts of alcohol.
- Recently had a cold or the flu.
You are more likely to have complications of pneumonia and need to go to the hospital if you:
- Are older than 65.
- Have some other illness , or have gone to the hospital for a medical problem within the last 3 months.
- Have had your spleen removed or do not have a working spleen .
- Have an alcohol use problem.
- Have a weak immune system.
- Reside in a place where people live close together, such as a university dorm or nursing home.
Your Good Health: You Can Get Pneumonia Even When Vaccinated
Dear Dr. Roach: When I was 55, my doctor recommended that I have the pneumonia vaccination, and a booster a couple of years ago. I am 72 now. Is it likely Hillary Clinton would have got one? Can you get pneumonia after having the vaccination? If so, why would it be recommended, and are they harmful?
I dont know whether Mrs. Clinton was vaccinated. However, expert groups recommend vaccination. The current recommendation from the U.S. Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices is to get the PCV13 at age 65, followed by a dose of PPSV23 six to 12 months later. Adults over 18 also should receive these two vaccines if they have a condition that compromises the immune system, or certain other medical conditions. Some experts recommend only the Pneumovax for healthy elderly.
No vaccine is perfect, so it is still possible to get pneumococcal pneumonia after vaccination. There are many other types of pneumonia caused by organisms other than the one covered by the vaccine.
The best estimate is that the vaccine prevents 50 to 80 per cent of severe pneumococcal disease. The most common side effects are a sore or swollen arm. Serious reactions are rare. Because of the significant benefit and small risk of harm, I recommend at least the PPSV23 pneumococcal vaccine for those over 65.
The second issue is whether it is safe to do both cataract surgeries at the same time.
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How Is Pneumonia Diagnosed
Your doctor will ask you about your symptoms and do a physical exam. He or she may order a chest X-ray and a complete blood count . This is usually enough for your doctor to know if you have pneumonia. You may need more tests if you have bad symptoms, are an older adult, or have other health problems. In general, the sicker you are, the more tests you may need.
Your doctor may also test mucus from your lungs to find out if bacteria are causing your pneumonia. Finding out what is causing your pneumonia can help your doctor choose the best treatment for you. However, often the organism can’t be found and a broad-spectrum antibiotic may be given.
Follow Your Treatment Plan
It is important that you take all your medicines as your doctor prescribes. If you are using antibiotics, continue to take the medicine until it is all gone. You may start to feel better before you finish the medicine, but you should continue to take it. If you stop too soon, the bacterial infection and your pneumonia may come back. It may also become resistant to the antibiotic, making treatment more difficult.
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How Can You Prevent Pneumonia
Experts recommend immunization for children and adults. Children get the pneumococcal vaccine as part of their routine shots. If you are 65 or older or you have a long-term health problem, it’s a good idea to get a pneumococcal vaccine. It may not keep you from getting pneumonia. But if you do get pneumonia, you probably won’t be as sick. You can also get an influenza vaccine to prevent the flu, because sometimes people get pneumonia after having the flu.
You can also lower your chances of getting pneumonia by staying away from people who have the flu, respiratory symptoms, or chickenpox. You may get pneumonia after you have one of these illnesses. Wash your hands often. This helps prevent the spread of viruses and bacteria that may cause pneumonia.
How Can You Care For Your Child At Home
Give your child acetaminophen or ibuprofen for fever or for pain at the shot area. Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label. Do not give aspirin to anyone younger than 20. It has been linked to Reye syndrome, a serious illness.
Do not give a child two or more pain medicines at the same time unless the doctor told you to. Many pain medicines have acetaminophen, which is Tylenol. Too much acetaminophen can be harmful.
Put ice or a cold pack on the sore area for 10 to 20 minutes at a time. Put a thin cloth between the ice and your child’s skin.
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Problems That Could Happen After Getting Any Injected Vaccine
- People sometimes faint after a medical procedure, including vaccination. Sitting or lying down for about 15 minutes can help prevent fainting and injuries caused by a fall. Tell your doctor if you or your child:
- Feel dizzy
- Have vision changes
- Have ringing in the ears
How Common Is Aspiration Pneumonia
Aspiration of food or drink is a relatively common thing. Youve probably heard someone say that food “went down the wrong pipe, meaning that food or drink went toward your lungs instead of your stomach. When this happens, you probably coughed until you felt better.
When the same sort of thing happens to someone who isnt able to cough the food or drink out of their lungs, aspiration pneumonia may result.
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What Are The Complications Of Pneumonia
Anyone can experience complications from pneumonia. However, people in high-risk groups are more likely to develop complications, including:
- Breathing difficulties: Pneumonia can make breathing difficult. Pneumonia plus an existing lung disorder can make breathing even more difficult. Breathing difficulties may require a hospital stay to receive oxygen therapy or breathing and healing assistance with the use of a breathing machine .
- Fluid buildup in the lungs : Pneumonia can cause a buildup in the fluid between the membranes that line the lungs and the inside of the chest cavity. It is a serious condition that makes breathing difficult. Pleural effusion can be treated by draining excess fluid with a catheter, chest tube or by surgery.
- Bacteria in the bloodstream : The bacteria that cause pneumonia can leave your lungs and enter your bloodstream, spreading the infection to other organs. This condition is treated with antibiotics.
- Lung abscess. A lung abscess is a pus-filled cavity in the lung that is caused by a bacterial infection. It can be treated by draining the pus with a long needle or removing it by surgery.
Covid Pneumonia: How Long Does Recovery Take
You’re likely familiar with the common, mild symptoms of COVID-19 including fever, dry cough and fatigue.
But, in more severe cases, COVID-19 can also cause serious complications, including pneumonia.
“We still have a lot to learn about COVID-19, particularly about the havoc it can wreak on the lungs and the pneumonia it causes, which is often now called COVID pneumonia,” says Dr. Rayman Lee, pulmonologist at Houston Methodist.
That being said, there’s still plenty that experts like Dr. Lee do know about COVID pneumonia, including about how long it can take to fully recover from it.
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When Should You Call For Help
anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:
- You have severe trouble breathing.
or seek immediate medical care if:
- You have a new or higher fever.
- You have new or worse trouble breathing.
- You cough up blood.
- You are dizzy or lightheaded, or you feel like you may faint.
Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:
- You do not get better as expected.
- You are coughing more deeply or more often.
Who Should Get Pneumococcal Vaccines
CDC recommends pneumococcal vaccination for all children younger than 2 years old and all adults 65 years or older. In certain situations, older children and other adults should also get pneumococcal vaccines. Below is more information about who should and should not get each type of pneumococcal vaccine.
Talk to your or your childs doctor about what is best for your specific situation.
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What Is The Outlook If I Have Aspiration Pneumonia
Most people who get aspiration pneumonia and get treatment will survive. The prognosis for aspiration pneumonia also depends on your overall health and other conditions that you may have and how sick you were when you started treatment.
Untreated aspiration pneumonia can be dangerous, resulting in things like lung abscesses or lung scarring. In fact, it can result in death.
What Can You Do To Prevent These Infections
- Get a flu shot every year.
- Get a pneumococcal vaccine shot. If you have had one before, ask your doctor whether you need another dose. Two different types of pneumococcal vaccines are recommended for people ages 65 and older.
- If you must be around people with colds or the flu, wash your hands often.
- Do not smoke. This is the most important step you can take to prevent more damage to your lungs. If you need help quitting, talk to your doctor about stop-smoking programs and medicines.
- These can increase your chances of quitting for good.
- Avoid secondhand smoke, air pollution, and high altitudes. Also avoid cold, dry air and hot, humid air. Stay at home with your windows closed when air pollution is bad.
Exercise and eat well
- If your doctor recommends it, get more exercise. Walking is a good choice. Bit by bit, increase the amount you walk every day. Try for at least 30 minutes on most days of the week.
- Eat regular, well-balanced meals. Eating right keeps your energy levels up and helps your body fight infection.
- Get plenty of rest and sleep.
Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It’s also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.
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