Bacterial pneumonia, as its name suggests, is a lung infection that’s caused by—you guessed it—bacteria. There are many types of bacteria that can cause pneumonia, but the most common one is streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria.
When these bacteria infect your lungs, the air sacs in your lungs get infected and inflamed. If they fill with fluid or pus, boom: you have yourself a case of bacterial pneumonia.
While bacterial pneumonia is common, that doesn’t mean it isn’t serious—pneumonia should always be treated quickly. If left untreated, bacterial pneumonia can become problematic—even fatal. Read more to discover the symptoms of bacterial pneumonia, who’s most at risk for bacterial pneumonia, bacterial pneumonia treatments, and more.
Bacterial Pneumonia Symptoms
With bacterial pneumonia, symptoms often come on hard and fast… but sometimes, they can develop over the course of a few days. Some telltale signs of bacterial pneumonia include:
- A cough that produces green, yellow, or even bloody mucus
- A high fever of up to 105°F
- Body-shaking chills
- Extreme fatigue
- Inability to catch your breath
- Low/no appetite
- Profuse sweating
- Sharp/stabbing chest pain, particularly when coughing or taking a deep breath
- Rapid breathing and heartbeat
- Blue lips/fingernails
NOTE: If you’re experiencing one or more of these symptoms and have HIV/AIDS or another disease that weakens your immune system, contact your physician immediately. Bacterial pneumonia can be fatal if left untreated in immunocompromised people. You can reach us at 423-710-3864.
Bacterial Pneumonia Risk Factors
People in good health can contract bacterial pneumonia after a particularly nasty illness, but for the most part if you’re healthy, your risk is low. You have a higher risk of getting bacterial pneumonia if you:
- Consume too much alcohol (this can weaken your immune system)
- Are 65+
- Have chronic conditions like heart disease, diabetes, or asthma
- Are recovering from surgery
- Don’t have a healthy diet or have vitamin deficiencies
- Have other conditions that weaken your immune system (leukemia, lymphoma, HIV/AIDS, lung/other types of cancer, COPD, bronchiectasis, or cystic fibrosis)
Bacterial Pneumonia Diagnosis
In some cases, your physician may be able to tell if you have bacterial pneumonia just from a physical exam and by asking questions about your symptoms and health. During a physical examination, your doctor will listen to your lungs—this will allow him/her to tell if you have fluid in your lungs—a telltale sign of pneumonia. If a physical examination alone isn’t enough to reach a bacterial pneumonia diagnosis, you may get extra tests, including:
- Pulse oximetry test: this is when a small device is clipped to your finger to see if you have enough oxygen in your blood. This is a painless procedure.
- Sputum/mucus examination under a microscope
- Chest CT scan
- Blood tests
Bacterial Pneumonia Treatments
Just like with other bacterial infections, bacterial pneumonia can be treated with antibiotics. Once you start your antibiotics, it’s extremely important that you finish the entire round of medication—even if you start feeling better. If you do not finish your antibiotics, all of the bacteria in your system may not be cleared up—resulting in you getting sick all over again.
To help treat symptoms of pneumonia, your doctor may also suggest various medications to manage your pain and fever.
In some more severe cases, you may have to go to the hospital for oxygen treatments, IV fluids/medications, or treatments to help loosen chest congestion.
While recovering from bacterial pneumonia, it’s important to take care of yourself by:
- Drinking lots of fluids: this will help loosen the fluid in your lungs, making it easier to cough out
- Getting a lot of rest
- Using a humidifier
- Taking warm baths
- Not smoking
- Staying home until your fever is gone for 24 hours (you are contagious during this period!) and are not longer coughing up any mucus
Bacterial Pneumonia Prevention
Sometimes, especially after an illness like strep throat, bacterial pneumonia is something that just happens. But you can reduce your risk of contracting bacterial pneumonia a few different ways:
- Children younger than 5 and adults 65+ can get a pneumococcal pneumonia vaccine. Pneumococcal pneumonia is a common form of bacterial pneumonia
- Wash your hands frequently with warm soap and water
- Practice healthy habits: a good diet, plenty of fluids, exercise, plenty of rest
The Lung Docs: Specialized Pulmonary Care
The Lung Docs provides specialized, state-of-the-art pulmonary care to our patients with bacterial pneumonia in Chattanooga and the surrounding Southeast Tennessee and Northwest Georgia areas.
Dr. Mike’s Approach
I’m Dr. Mike Czarnecki, “The Lung Doc,” and I’m trained in all areas of pulmonary health, including the diagnosis and treatment of bacterial pneumonia. I will work with you to formulate a personalized bacterial pneumonia treatment plan so you can live, laugh, love, and breathe better again! To get started, schedule an appointment online or call our office to speak to someone directly. I can’t wait to meet you!