Who Is Most At Risk For Getting Pneumonia
People who have an increased risk of pneumonia include:
- People over the age of 65 and infants under age 2. The weakening immune system of older people makes them less able to fight off illnesses. Similarly, the immune system of infants is still developing and not at full-strength, making them more susceptible to infection.
- People with a health-caused weakened immune system. Examples include:
- People who are receiving chemotherapy
- Transplanted organ recipients
- People who have HIV/AIDS
- People with autoimmune disease and who are taking medications that suppress the immune system.
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.
How Long Is Pneumonia Contagious
The average time an individual is contagious from pneumonia is approximately 10 days. However, some cases of pneumonia can be contagious for several weeks, depending on the form of pneumonia and the type of medical treatment recommended.
Antibiotics can significantly decrease the contagiousness of bacterial pneumonias. After starting antibiotics, an individual is still contagious for another 24 to 48 hours. Once the fever associated with the illness is gone, the pneumonia is less likely to be contagious. Coughing can continue for several weeks due to lingering inflammation, even after effective treatment.
Home remedies such as the use of honey to relieve coughing and zinc to boost the immune system, especially during a case of viral pneumonia, can be helpful tools, according to Kate Tulenko, MD, the founder and CEO of Corvus Health.
Getting medical treatment can reduce the duration of illness and the risk of spreading it to other people. If your fever returns or if lingering symptoms fail to go away, ask a healthcare provider for advice.
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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.
Is Bacterial Pneumonia Contagious
Whether or not bacterial pneumonia is contagious depends upon the type of bacteria causing the infection. In many cases, people contract pneumonia when bacteria they normally carry in the nose or throat are spread to the lungs. Most kinds of bacterial pneumonia are not highly contagious. However, pneumonia due to Mycoplasma pneumoniae and tuberculosis are exceptions. Both these types of bacterial pneumonia are highly contagious. These are spread among people by breathing in infected droplets that come from coughing or sneezing, similar to the spread of viral infections.
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How You Catch Pneumonia
While anyone can catch pneumonia, some people are more likely to come down with illness when coming into contact with the germs. Like many other illnesses, pneumonia is caught through contact with the bacteria or virus that creates pneumonia.
Coughing and sneezing are the most common ways these germs spread.
Its also possible to catch the illness by touching something like a counter or door handle, sharing cups and utensils, and touching your face without washing your hands first.
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
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What’s The Link Between Covid
A quick refresher first: COVID-19 is a serious respiratory illness caused by the virus SARS-CoV-2. It can lead to a range of intense symptoms, including a cough, fever, trouble breathing, and loss of taste or smell, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention . Pneumonia is an infection of the tiny air sacs in the lungs that can cause mild to severe illness in people, the CDC says.
Some patients with COVID-19 develop pneumoniain fact, the World Health Organization first called the virus -infected pneumonia , before shortening the name to COVID-19. The SARS-CoV-2 virus was also first identified in Wuhan, China due to cases of “pneumonia of unknown etiology,” or unknown cause, the WHO reported in January 2020.
It’s not uncommon to develop pneumonia as the result of any virus, Raymond Casciari, MD, a pulmonologist at St. Joseph Hospital in Orange, California, tells Health. In the case of COVID-19, the virus can damage your alveoli and cause fluid to build in your lungs as your body fights the infection, he explains. That can also lead to the development of acute respiratory distress syndrome , which is a serious form of respiratory failure that makes the alveoli fill with fluid. “The immune system starts attacking the lung itself, which results in ARDS,” Dr. Casciari says.
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How Can You Catch Pneumoniaand Who’s Most At Risk
When pneumonia is caused by either bacteria or viruses, it can spread between people in a variety of ways: being exposed to viral particles through uncovered coughs or sneezes, sharing drinks or utensils with an infected person, or even touching a tissue from or taking care of a person with pneumonia. It’s important to note that these are mainly examples of community-acquired pneumonia, which occurs when someone develops pneumonia in the general community, per the CDC.
Anyone can get pneumonia, according to the ALA, but some people are at a greater risk for having severe pneumonia than others. Those include:
- People age 65 and over.
- Children under two years old.
- People with chronic lung diseases like COPD or cystic fibrosis.
- People with serious chronic illnesses, like heart disease, diabetes, and sickle cell disease.
- People with a weakened immune system due to HIV/AIDs, an organ transplant, chemotherapy, or long-term steroid use.
- People with difficulty swallowing.
- Those who had a recent respiratory infection, like a cold, laryngitis, or the flu.
- People who have been recently hospitalized.
- People who abuse drugs and alcohol.
- Exposure to certain chemicals, pollutants, or toxic fumes, including secondhand smoke.
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How To Prevent Pneumonia
Some pneumonias are preventable. Vaccinations are available to prevent pneumonia caused by some viruses and bacteria. Also, living a healthy lifestyle by eating a balanced diet and regularly exercising can minimize the risk of contracting pneumonia. Routine exercise can increase lung health and resistance to infections.
A healthy lifestyle also includes refraining from smoking and drinking too much alcohol to help keep the immune system healthy. Getting plenty of rest and drinking water is yet another way to help prevent illnesses like pneumonia.
Practicing thorough hand washing can also reduce your exposure to germs that can cause pneumonia, especially during cold and flu season. If you cough or sneeze, do your best to do so into a disposable tissue or the elbow of your sleeve, followed by washing your hands. Be sure to disinfect frequently used surfaces such as telephones, countertops, and doorknobs to prevent the spread of germs that can cause pneumonia.
Lastly, if people in your community are sick, do your best to practice social distancing when possible. Reducing your exposure to bacteria and viruses while living a healthy and active lifestyle can play an essential role in maintaining wellness.
What Are The Symptoms Of Pneumonia
Pneumonia symptoms can vary from so mild you barely notice them, to so severe that hospitalization is required. How your body responds to pneumonia depends on the type germ causing the infection, your age and your overall health.
The signs and symptoms of pneumonia may include:
- Cough, which may produce greenish, yellow or even bloody mucus
- Fever, sweating and shaking chills
- Sharp or stabbing chest pain that gets worse when you breathe deeply or cough
- Loss of appetite, low energy, and fatigue
- Nausea and vomiting, especially in small children
- Confusion, especially in older people
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What Can I Do At Home To Feel Better
In addition to taking any antibiotics and/or medicine your doctor prescribes, you should also:
- Get lots of rest. Rest will help your body fight the infection.
- Drink plenty of fluids. Fluids will keep you hydrated. They can help loosen the mucus in your lungs. Try water, warm tea, and clear soups.
- Stop smoking if you smoke and avoid secondhand smoke. Smoke can make your symptoms worse. Smoking also increases your risk of developing pneumonia and other lung problems in the future. You should also avoid lit fireplaces or other areas where the air may not be clean.
- Stay home from school or work until your symptoms go away. This usually means waiting until your fever breaks and you arent coughing up mucus. Ask your doctor when its okay for you to return to school or work.
- Use a cool-mist humidifier or take a warm bath. This will help clear your lungs and make it easier for you to breathe.
Who Is At High Risk Of Pneumonia
Cases of pneumonia can be mild to severe and even life-threatening, depending on your physical condition and the type of pneumonia your have. Anyoneyoung or oldcan get this respiratory condition. The following groups are more susceptible to developing pneumonia:
- People 65 years of age and older
- Patients with a preexisting respiratory illness, such as COPD or asthma
- People with underlying health problems, such as heart disease or HIV/AIDS
- Those with weakened immune systems, such as patients undergoing chemotherapy, recovering from surgery, taking immunosuppressant drugs, or breathing on a ventilator
- People with overall poor health
- People who smoke or drink excessive amounts of alcohol
A medical professional can diagnose pneumonia with a physical examination or chest X-ray and prescribe medication as necessary.
In general, children are more likely to get pneumonia than adults. Pneumonia is the number one cause of childhood deaths in the world. Although child mortality rates from pneumonia are significantly less in America because of available health care, pneumonia is the number one reason why children are hospitalized in the United States. Children 5 years old and younger are at higher risk for pneumonia than older children.
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Can Pneumonia Be Prevented
Some types of pneumonia can be prevented by vaccines. Kids usually get routine vaccines against Haemophilus influenzae, pneumococcus, and whooping cough beginning at 2 months of age.
The flu vaccine is recommended for all kids ages 6 months through 19 years. Its extra important for kids who have a chronic illness such as a heart or lung disorder or asthma.
When possible, keep kids away from anyone with symptoms of a respiratory infection.
How Do I Know If I Have Pneumonia
Pneumonia symptoms may present within 24 hours after infection or come on slowly. Common symptoms of pneumonia sometimes resemble cold- or flu-like symptoms including coughing, fever, and trouble breathing.
The cough itself may be wet or productive, meaning you cough up yellow, green, or even brown mucus from the lungs. Hemoptysis and coughing at night can also occur during a bout of pneumonia.
A high fever, upward of 105 degrees, can be a reaction to the body fighting an infection associated with pneumonia. If youre feverish, you may experience chills, sweating, and shaking.
Difficulty breathing may feel like shortness of breath, or feeling like you cant catch your breath. Chest pains, including sharp or stabbing feelings when coughing or trying to take a deep breath, are common once pneumonia develops. Furthermore, cyanosis may occur, causing your lips, fingertips, or skin to turn blue from a lack of oxygen.
Additional symptoms of pneumonia can include a loss of appetite, diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting.
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When Should I See My Doctor
Pneumonia can be life-threatening if left untreated, especially for certain at-risk people. You should call your doctor if you have a cough that wont go away, shortness of breath, chest pain, or a fever. You should also call your doctor if you suddenly begin to feel worse after having a cold or the flu.
When To Seek Medical Care For Your Pneumonia
At UPMC Western Maryland, we recommend that any person who has had a cough and a fever after experiencing flu-like symptoms schedule an appointment with their primary care provider as soon as possible or visit a UPMC Western Maryland urgent care center. This is especially important if the cough produces sputum that appears brown, green, or yellow in color. Anyone who experiences shortness of breath, high fever, confusion, or pain after a diagnosis of pneumonia should go to the UPMC Western Maryland Emergency Department immediately for treatment. Those with a depressed immune system or chronic conditions like HIV or diabetes should also seek immediate care.
UPMC Western Maryland wishes you a safe and healthy winter of 2019. If youre concerned about the possibility of pneumonia, we encourage you to speak to your primary care provider about a vaccine to prevent some of its types. Its also important to maintain good personal hygiene standards, avoid people who are already sick with pneumonia, and stay home when you have the disease yourself.
Please note, the information provided throughout this site is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. All content, including text, graphics, images, and video, on or available through this website is for general information purposes only. If you are experiencing relating symptoms, please visit your doctor or call 9-1-1 in an emergency.
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What Can I Do To Feel Better If I Have Pneumonia
- Finish all medications and therapies prescribed by your doctor. Do not stop taking antibiotics when you start feeling better. Continue taking them until no pills remain. If you dont take all your antibiotics, your pneumonia may come back.
- If over-the-counter medicines to reduce fever have been recommended , take as directed on the label. Never give aspirin to children.
- Drink plenty of fluids to help loosen phlegm.
- Quit smoking if you smoke. Dont be around others who smoke or vape. Surround yourself with as much clean, chemical-free air as possible.
- Use a humidifier, take a steamy shower or bath to make it easier for you to breathe.
- Get lots of rest. Dont rush your recovery. It can take weeks to get your full strength back.
If at any time you start to feel worse, call your doctor right away.
When To Contact A Medical Professional
- Cough that brings up bloody or rust-colored mucus
- Breathing symptoms that get worse
- Chest pain that gets worse when you cough or breathe in
- Fast or painful breathing
- Night sweats or unexplained weight loss
- Shortness of breath, shaking chills, or persistent fevers
- Signs of pneumonia and a weak immune system
- Worsening of symptoms after initial improvement
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Get The Necessary Vaccines
In addition, there are several vaccines that can help protect against some viruses and bacteria that cause pneumonia, Cutler says.
These include the following:
- Pneumococcal pneumonia vaccine. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends this vaccine for babies and children younger than two years old and adults age 65 and older.
- Influenza vaccine. The CDC recommends everyone six months and older get a flu vaccine every year to protect against the infectious diseases and related health complications, like pneumonia.
- Hib vaccine. The CDC recommends this vaccine for all children younger than five years old. It protects against the Haemophilus influenzae type b bacteria that can cause pneumonia and meningitis.