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.
Protect Your Health With These Healthy Living Practices
Avoid people who are sick. If you are sick, stay away from others as much as possible to keep from getting them sick.
You can also help prevent respiratory infections by:
- Cleaning and disinfecting surfaces that are touched a lot
- Coughing or sneezing into a tissue or into your elbow or sleeve
- Limiting contact with cigarette smoke or quitting smoking
- Taking good care of medical conditions
Dos And Donts In Managing Viral Pneumonia:
- DO tell your health care provider about all your medical problems.
- DO tell your health care provider about medicines you take, prescription and over-the-counter.
- DO call your health care provider if youre getting worse or dont feel better after 2 to 3 days.
- DO tell your health care provider if youre pregnant.
- DO call your health care provider right away or go to the emergency room if shortness of breath gets worse.
- DO try to cough up as much phlegm as possible.
- DO put an air humidifier in your room so you can breathe moist air, which helps get rid of phlegm.
- DO drink plenty of fluids so you dont get dehydrated.
- DO use acetaminophen or aspirin for fever and pain.
- DO call your health care provider if you think that you have pneumonia because you have fever, too much sputum, increased shortness of breath, or chest pain.
- DO call your health care provider if you have duskycolored skin, lips, or fingernails.
- DO call your health care provider if nausea or vomiting stops you from taking your medicines.
- DO call your health care provider if you get dehydrated because of vomiting or diarrhea.
- DONT stop taking your medicine just because you feel better, unless your health care provider tells you to.
- DONT smoke.
- DONT drink alcohol in excess.
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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.
Pneumonia And Long Covid
In a Q& A about lingering COVID-19 symptoms, the Cleveland Clinic notes that it is seemingly random who experiences long-lasting symptoms and who doesn’t. So, its not quite clear whether having pneumonia in the past is connected with having long COVID.
As a way to find answers, in 2021, the National Institutes of Health launched an ongoing study into the underlying biological causes of prolonged symptoms and what makes some people more likely to get long COVID.
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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.
What Is Bacterial Pneumonia
Bacteria are the most common cause of pneumonia in adults.
Types of bacteria that cause pneumonia include:
- Streptococcus pneumoniae
- Chlamydophila pneumoniae
- Haemophilus influenzae type B
Streptococcus pneumoniae, also known as pneumococcus, is the most common cause of bacterial pneumonia in adults, called pneumococcal pneumonia.
It may be prevented by a vaccine. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends two pneumonia vaccines for adults 65 years and older: pneumococcal conjugate vaccine, or Prevnar 13 , and pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine, or Pneumovax 23 .
According to the CDC:
- You should receive a dose of the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine first, followed at least one year later by a dose of the pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine .
- If you’ve already received any doses of PPSV23, the dose of PCV13 should be given at least one year after the most recent PPSV23 dose.
- If you’ve already received a dose of the PCV13 at a younger age, another dose is not recommended.
Mycoplasma pneumoniae usually infects younger adults who work in crowded areas, such as schools, homeless shelters, or prisons.
Chlamydophila pneumoniae causes a mild pneumonia infection that usually affects people older than 60.
Other bacterial pneumonia symptoms include:
- High fever
- Sore throat
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How To Avoid Any Type Of Pneumonia
Good hygiene and health practices will help you from contracting most infections, Turner says.
You probably already know the drill here: Wash your hands frequently, avoid sneezers and their trail of tissues, and clean frequently touched surfaceselevator buttons, handles, doorknobswhere germs can linger.
And keep your immune system strong with a nutritious diet, lots of water, and adequate sleep, Turner adds.
Vaccines are also a powerful preventive measure. Get the flu vaccine annuallyinfluenza on its own is unpleasant, but it can also lead to pneumonia. Get the pneumococcal vaccine if you are 65 years or older, Turner advises the vaccine, which protects against bacterial pneumonia, is also recommended for cigarette smokers and younger people with certain medical conditions.
Pneumonia Symptoms And Causes
There are more than 30 different causes of pneumonia, including bacteria, viruses, airborne irritants, and fungi. When these germs enter the lungs, they can overpower the immune system and invade nearby lung tissues, which are very delicate.
Once infected, the air sacs in the lungs become inflamed and fill up with fluid and pus, which causes coughing, fever, chills, and breathing problems.
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What Is Fungal Pneumonia
Three types of fungi living in soil are known causes of pneumonia:
- Coccidioides immitis and Coccidiodes posadasii are two related fungi common to the American Southwest. Both can cause coccidioidomycosis, also known as cocci or valley fever.
- Histoplasma capsulatum is found in the central and eastern United States, especially areas around the Ohio and Mississippi River valleys, and causes a disease called histoplasmosis.
- Cryptococcus is a fungi found in soil and bird droppings all across the country.
Most people who inhale these fungi don’t get sick, but if your immune system is weak, you may develop pneumonia.
Another fungus, Pneumocystis jirovecii, can generate an infection in premature, malnourished infants, and in people with a weakened immune system, such as those who have HIV or AIDS.
The symptoms of pneumonia that are caused by fungi are often similar to those of other forms of pneumonia, including a fever, dry cough, shortness of breath, and fatigue.
But because this type of pneumonia usually affects people with weakened immune systems, symptoms tend to develop faster, and people often experience a high fever.
Antibioticsor Wait It Out
Along with a physical exam, your doctor may take a sputum culture, chest X-ray, and blood work to determine if you have a viral or bacterial form of pneumonia, Turner says.
Your diagnosis is important since it helps determine treatment. If you have viral pneumonia, I wouldnt prescribe to you an antibiotic, says Dr. Brown.
Thats for three important reasons. First, antibiotics simply dont work to treat viruses. And, they can lead to unpleasant side effects . Finally, unnecessary use of antibiotics means that they might not be effective when you do actually need them for treatment, says Dr. Brown. We always strive to give the right treatment to the right patient at the right time, she notes.
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What Is Viral Pneumonia
Viral pneumonia is a lung infection caused by a virus, such as influenza. You can get a viral infection by breathing in the virus or by touching something that has the virus on it. Viral pneumonia can develop if a virus in your body travels to your lungs. Your risk for viral pneumonia is greater if you are older than 65, or you have lung or heart disease. Your risk is also greater if you have a weakened immune system.
How Common Is Pneumonia
Approximately 1 million adults in the United States are hospitalized each year for pneumonia and 50,000 die from the disease. It is the second most common reason for being admitted to the hospital — childbirth is number one. Pneumonia is the most common reason children are admitted to the hospital in the United States. Seniors who are hospitalized for pneumonia face a higher risk of death compared to any of the top 10 other reasons for hospitalization.
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Limit Contact With Others
One of the best things you can do when recovering from pneumonia is to limit your contact with others. As weve learned throughout the COVID-19 pandemicwhich can cause viral pneumoniastaying at least six feet away from others reduces the amount of viral or bacterial content they are exposed to as you breathe or talk.
How Can I Prevent Viral Pneumonia
- Prevent the spread of germs. Wash your hands often with soap and water. Use gel hand cleanser when there is no soap and water available. Do not touch your eyes, nose, or mouth unless you have washed your hands first. Cover your mouth when you cough. Cough into a tissue or your shirtsleeve so you do not spread germs from your hands. If you are sick, stay away from others as much as possible.
- Ask about vaccines. You may need a vaccine to help prevent pneumonia. Get an influenza vaccine every year as soon as it becomes available.
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What Are The Treatments For Pneumonia
Treatment for pneumonia depends on the type of pneumonia, which germ is causing it, and how severe it is:
- Antibiotics treat bacterial pneumonia and some types of fungal pneumonia. They do not work for viral pneumonia.
- In some cases, your provider may prescribe antiviral medicines for viral pneumonia
- Antifungal medicines treat other types of fungal pneumonia
You may need to be treated in a hospital if your symptoms are severe or if you are at risk for complications. While there, you may get additional treatments. For example, if your blood oxygen level is low, you may receive oxygen therapy.
It may take time to recover from pneumonia. Some people feel better within a week. For other people, it can take a month or more.
How Can I Manage My Symptoms
- Rest as needed. Rest often while you recover. Slowly start to do more each day.
- Drink liquids as directed. Ask how much liquid to drink each day and which liquids are best for you. Liquids help thin your mucus, which may make it easier for you to cough it up.
- Do not smoke. Avoid secondhand smoke. Smoking makes it harder for you to get better. Nicotine and other chemicals in cigarettes and cigars can cause lung damage. Ask your healthcare provider for information if you currently smoke and need help to quit. E-cigarettes or smokeless tobacco still contain nicotine. Talk to your healthcare provider before you use these products.
- Use a cool mist humidifier. A humidifier will help increase air moisture in your home. This may make it easier for you to breathe and help decrease your cough.
- Keep your head elevated. You may be able to breathe better if you lie down with the head of your bed up.
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Viral And Bacterial Pneumonia Symptoms Are Quite Similar
If you have pneumoniaeither bacterial or viralyoull typically have a cough that brings up sputum, fever, shortness of breath, and chest pain when you cough or take a deep breath, says Kimberly Brown, MD, MPH, an emergency medicine doctor in Memphis, Tennessee.
It can be difficult to tell by symptoms alone whether you have viral or bacterial pneumonia, says Dr. Brown.
But there is one potential tip-off that its bacterial, and not viral. Generally, bacterial pneumonia causes the more severe symptoms, Turner says.
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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Can Pneumonia Be Prevented
Check with your healthcare provider about getting immunizations. The flu is a common cause of pneumonia. Because of that, getting a flu shot every year can help prevent both the flu and pneumonia.
There is also a pneumococcal vaccine. It will protect you from a common form of bacterial pneumonia. Children younger than age 5 and adults ages 65 and older should get this shot.
The pneumococcal shot is also recommended for all children and adults who are at increased risk of pneumococcal disease due to other health conditions.
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Pneumonia Can Be Preventedvaccines Can Help
Some patients with coronavirus disease 2019 have had pneumonia. Learn more about COVID-19.
Pneumonia, an infection of the lungs, needlessly affects millions of people worldwide each year.
Pneumonia can often be prevented and can usually be treated.
Lower your risk of pneumonia with vaccines and other healthy living practices.
CDC data showed that in the United States during 2018:
- 1.5 million people were diagnosed with pneumonia in an emergency department
- Approximately 44,000 people died from pneumonia
Most of the people affected by pneumonia in the United States are adults. Vaccines and appropriate treatment could prevent many of these deaths.