What You Need to Know About Pneumonia
Streptococcal or staphylococcus pneumonia, commonly known as simply pneumonia, is a serious pulmonary infection that causes the lungs to inflame, build up with fluid, and, at times, give off a milky-white discharge. This causes coughing with phlegm or pus, along with a fever, chills, and difficulty breathing. Pneumonia cases vary in severity from mild to life-threatening.
So, how do you know if you have Pneumonia? And how do you know when to see a doctor?
First, let me explain what causes it.
What Causes Pneumonia?
The signs and symptoms of pneumonia are dependent on things like the type of germ causing the infection, your age, and your overall health.
Pneumonia is generally caused by germs. Typically, your body will prevent these kinds of germs from infecting your lungs, but if you’re already sick or your immune system is otherwise compromised, you’re at increased risk for developing pneumonia.
If you’re a healthcare provider and work in a setting where there are other resistant organisms, you’re at more of a risk. The same goes if you’re a cigarette smoker and you have some underlying inflammation already going on in the lungs; that can increase your chances for infection as well.
But sometimes, even if you’re in good health, viruses and bacteria can still get past your body’s defenses. Healthy people can get pneumonia, too.
Are There Different Kinds of Pneumonia?
Yes, there are. The most common kinds are mycoplasma, streptococcus, staphylococcus, and neisseria pneumonia. There are also viral infections like influenza, plus there’s some additional fungal infections that you can get from bird droppings and other immunocompromised states.
Collecting a sputum sample and running blood work with cultures and sensitivities will help determine the exact kind of pneumonia you have and how to best treat it with specific antibiotics or targeted therapies.
How Do You Know if You Have Pneumonia?
Depending on the type of infection, you could have something as mild as a walking pneumonia, which is very similar to your average cold or flu. It stays around for several weeks but has minimal impact on your ability to function. More serious pneumonia would require you to be hospitalized and may only take 10 days of treatment, or could require several months to recover.
You may experience things like:
- Shortness of breath
- Cough, which may or may not produce phlegm
- Chest pain when you breathe or cough
- Confusion or changes in mental awareness (this typically happens in adults over the age of 65)
- Fever, sweating, and shaking chills (sometimes known as rigors)
- Low body temperature (most common in adults older than the age of 65 or those with weak immune systems)
- Shortness of breath
- Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
Who Can Get Pneumonia?
Unfortunately, anyone can get pneumonia. But the people with the highest risk are children younger than 2 years old and people who are 65 and older. Also, people of any age with a weakened immune system are significantly more susceptible than the average person.
How Do You Treat Pneumonia?
The best way to treat pneumonia is by making an appointment with your pulmonary physician.
Are There Ways to Prevent it?
You can help prevent pneumonia by doing the following:
- Get yourself and your kids vaccinated – there are vaccines that can prevent some types of pneumonia and the flu.
- Don’t smoke, or, if you already do, get help with smoking cessation.
- Practice good hygiene: Avoid touching your mouth, eyes, or nose. Wash your hands often and use plenty of soap!
- Keep your immune system strong – eat healthy, get enough sleep, & exercise regularly.
- Get treatment early so you can recover faster. Early aggressive intervention with your primary care doctor or a specialist in pulmonary medicine can help prevent things from getting worse.
If you think you may have pneumonia, please call our office at (423) 710-3864 to schedule an appointment. You can also request an appointment online.