Pneumonia is an infection of the lungs. It can be caused by bacteria or viruses.
Bacteria are a type of germ. They can cause pneumonia when they enter your body through your nose or mouth. They can also be trapped in your lungs and then spread to other parts of the body.
Viruses are also a type of germ. They can cause pneumonia when they enter your body through your nose or mouth. They can also spread to other parts of your body.
Your lungs are part of your respiratory system. They are three hollow organs that help you breathe.
When you have pneumonia, your lungs become inflamed. This can lead to a cough. You might also have:
- Muscle aches
- Shortness of breath
- Rapid breathing
- Chest pain
These symptoms may be worse when you’re active and breathing hard. They can also be more severe in people who are more than 65 years old.
If you have pneumonia, you’ll need to stay in the hospital. You may need to have several different types of treatment.
Pneumonia is not usually fatal. However, you can have complications that can make you more likely to die.
There are a few things you can do to help prevent pneumonia from getting worse. This includes:
- Practice good hand hygiene. Wash your hands often.
- Avoid using a straw.
- Practice good cough hygiene. Take cough medicine if you have a cough.
- Manage any underlying conditions that may be making you more likely to get pneumonia.
If you’re diagnosed with pneumonia, your doctor will likely prescribe antibiotics. This can help prevent pneumonia from coming back.
How is it diagnosed?
Pneumonia is often hard to diagnose. You may have symptoms, and they might seem like other conditions.
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and ask about any recent travels or hospitalizations. They may also want to know about any underlying conditions you have.
Your doctor will likely do a full physical exam. They’ll also do a chest X-ray to look for pneumonia.
If you have pneumonia and you have certain symptoms, other tests may be ordered. These include:
- Blood tests. These can look for infections, such as anemia.
- Urine tests. These can look for signs of kidney infection.
- Sputum tests. These can look for signs of lung infection.
How is it treated?
Pneumonia is treated with antibiotics. This will help prevent it from getting worse.
Depending on the type of pneumonia, you may need to stay in the hospital. This will help you get treatment.
Treatment for community-acquired pneumonia
You may be prescribed:
- Oral antibiotics
- Intravenous antibiotics
- Antibiotics in the form of a pill
- Antibiotics in the form of a liquid
- Antibiotics in the form of a spray
Your doctor may recommend a combination of these medications. They may also prescribe:
- Corticosteroids to reduce inflammation.
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to reduce fever and pain.
Your doctor may also suggest that you stay home from work or school for a few days. This will help your illness get better.
You may also need to take antibiotics for a short time. Your doctor may recommend that you take antibiotics for up to 10 days.
Taking them for this long may help prevent pneumonia from coming back. There are several types of antibiotics that may be used.
You might also be given a breathing machine or oxygen therapy. This helps you breathe. It may also get rid of excess mucus in your lungs.
When is it considered a complication?
Complications of pneumonia may include:
- Pulmonary embolism. This is a blood clot in the lungs. It can block your airways and cause serious breathing problems.
- Pulmonary hypertension. This is a condition that causes your blood vessels to become swollen. This can cause blood to back up into your lungs. It can also cause your heart rate and blood pressure to increase.
- Lung abscess. This is an infection. It can cause serious breathing problems.
- Chronic lung disease. This is a condition that can cause your lung function to decline.
- Pneumothorax. This is a collapsed lung. It can make it hard to breathe.
- Organ failure. This is a condition that can cause your body to stop working properly.
How can you prevent it?
If you’ve recently been around a lot of sick people, you’re more likely to get pneumonia. You can help prevent it by:
- Washing your hands often
- Not sharing personal items with others
- Staying home when you’re sick
- Avoiding travel if you’re sick
What is the long-term outlook?
People with pneumonia have a higher risk of complications. You can help prevent this by making sure you take the medications your doctor prescribes.
You should also follow your doctor’s treatment recommendations. This includes staying home when you’re sick.
If you do have complications, you can help prevent them by getting treatment right away. This will help reduce the risk of death.
In some cases, complications can be life-threatening. This includes:
- Pulmonary embolism
- Pulmonary hypertension
- Lung abscess
- Chronic lung disease
- Organ failure
There are some things you can do to help prevent pneumonia. These include:
- Washing your hands often. This includes washing your hands before eating, after using the bathroom, and before touching your face.
- Avoid sharing personal items with others.
- Stay home when you’re sick.
- Avoid travel if you’re sick.
When to see your doctor?
You should see your doctor if you have any of the following symptoms:
- High-grade fevers
- Shortness of breaths
- Coughing up blood
You should also see your doctor if you have any of these symptoms:
- Difficulty breathing
- Severe chest pain
- Severe weakness
The bottom line
Pneumonia is an infection of the lungs. It can happen after any type of infection.
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