Do You Have a Run-of the-Mill Cold or Pneumonia?

‘Tis the season for coughing, sore throats and body chills, though it’s important to remember that some infections are more serious than others, such as pneumonia. Saint Francis Healthcare wants to remind you this holiday season to see your primary care physician immediately if you experience symptoms of pneumonia.

How do you know if your symptoms are a run-of-the-mill cold or pneumonia? Pneumonia symptoms are much more severe. Pneumonia is a viral, bacterial or fungal infection of one or both sides of the lungs that causes the alveoli (air sacs in the lungs) to fill with fluid or pus, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. You may have a high fever, chills, trouble breathing and cough up fluid or phlegm from your lungs. You may have chest pain after you breathe or cough or feel worse after a cold or the flu.

The severity of pneumonia depends on your age, overall health and the type of germ causing it. Your doctor will review your medical history, do a physical exam and order diagnostic tests to determine the origin of your pneumonia. The most common type is community-acquired pneumonia, which means you caught pneumonia outside of a hospital. If you became ill while in a hospital, you have hospital-acquired pneumonia.

Most types of pneumonia are treated at home. If symptoms are more severe or if you have certain health issues, you may require treatment at the hospital.

Those most at risk for severe pneumonia include:

  • Children under five years old
  • Adults over 65
  • People with certain conditions such as heart failure, diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or weak immune systems due to HIV/AIDS, chemotherapy (a treatment for cancer) or organ or blood and marrow stem cell transplant procedures.

Pneumonia is still the leading cause of death among children under five worldwide. In the U.S., 48,632 people died from pneumonia in 2017, according to the CDC.

It can take a week to several weeks to recover from pneumonia, depending on the severity of your symptoms. If bacteria caused your pneumonia, take all your antibiotics as prescribed, even if you start to feel better. If you discontinue the medication, the symptoms could return. If a virus is the source, your doctor will prescribe an antiviral medication and you should begin feeling well again within one to three weeks.

Get to your doctor right away if you experience any pneumonia symptoms. It will save your life and get you well much quicker.

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