Pneumonia Recovery: Helpful Tips
Getting adequate rest, managing symptoms, staying hydrated and eating properly can help promote a quicker recovery from pneumonia. In some cases, breathing exercises taught by a respiratory therapist can aid in healing and recovery. Stopping smoking and avoiding secondhand smoke will also help speed recovery.
Taking antibiotics as directed for as long as directed can also help prevent relapse if the pneumonia is caused by bacteria. Not completing a course of antibiotics can also increase chances of developing antibiotic resistance if you need to take this type of antibiotic again in the future, so its important to finish medication as directed. Note that a cough may persist for up to 3 weeks after finishing antibiotics.
A chest X-ray following the completion of antibiotics can help determine if the lung infection has cleared up.
If pneumonia is caused by a virus or fungal infection, other medications are needed.
What To Expect At Home
You will still have symptoms of pneumonia after you leave the hospital.
- Your cough will slowly get better over 7 to 14 days.
- Sleeping and eating may take up to a week to return to normal.
- Your energy level may take 2 weeks or more to return to normal.
You will need to take time off work. For a while, you might not be able to do other things that you are used to doing.
Risk Factors For Long Covid Include
- Older age Long COVID affects 10% of 18-49 year-olds but this increases to 22% of those aged over 70.
- Obesity Long COVID is slightly more common if you have a raised BMI.
- Sex In younger age groups, long COVID is more common in women than men.
- Asthma This appears to be linked.
- Symptoms Having lots of symptoms early in the infection.
Dr. Spectre has suggested Long COVID can be divided into two groups. One group who have mostly long term respiratory symptoms with chronic cough, shortness of breath and tiredness. The second group has more organ-specific symptoms such as brain fog and other neurological symptoms, heart damage and kidney failure.
At the time of writing, 54 million people have been infected with the COVID-19 virus worldwide. If 1 in 20 develops Long COVID, this represents a huge new disease burden worldwide.
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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.
How To Avoid Getting A Chest Infection
Stop smoking if you smoke. People who smoke have a higher risk of developing serious chest infections. Smoking damages your lungs and weakens your defences against infection.
Cut down on how much alcohol you drink. Excessive and prolonged alcohol misuse can weaken your lungs’ natural defences against infections. This can make you more vulnerable to chest infections.
Washing your hands especially before eating protects you from many infections including chest infections. Avoid touching your face with your hands.
If you are over 65 or have a serious long-term health condition you should:
- ask your GP about the annual flu vaccination
- ask if you should have the pneumococcal vaccine this helps prevent pneumonia
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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.
How Can I Tell If I Have Pneumonia Versus The Common Cold Or The Flu
Do I have a cold or could it be the flu or even pneumonia? Its tough to tell the difference but critical to know when to seek medical care
Watch for these ongoing symptoms that occur in pneumonia:
- Serious congestion or chest pain.
- Difficulty breathing.
- A fever of 102 or higher.
- Coughing that produces pus.
Pneumonia symptoms last longer than cold and flu. If your symptoms arent severe, its okay to try such home remedies as getting more rest, drinking more fluids and taking some over-the-counter medicines and see what happens. But if you dont see improvement in your symptoms after three to five days, or if you are experiencing more serious symptoms such as dizziness or severe difficulty breathing, see your healthcare provider. Dont let it go. Pneumonia-like symptoms in very young children or in adults older than 65 are a cause for concern. Also, pneumonia can cause permanent lung damage if left untreated for too long. And always seek immediate care if you experience chest pain or have breathing difficulties.
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How Can Parents Help
Kids with pneumonia need to get plenty of rest and drink lots of liquids while the body works to fight the infection.
If your child has bacterial pneumonia and the doctor prescribed antibiotics, give the medicine on schedule for as long as directed. Keeping up with the medicine doses will help your child recover faster and help prevent the infection from spreading to others in the family. If your child is wheezing, the doctor might recommend using breathing treatments.
Ask the doctor before you use a medicine to treat your child’s cough. Over-the-counter cough and cold medicines are not recommended for any kids under 6 years old. If your child doesnt seem to be feeling better in a few days, call your doctor for advice.
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.
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Returning To Everyday Activities
Regardless of whether you could treat your pneumonia at home or you were hospitalized for pneumonia, the best thing you can do is take care of yourself as you recover. Here are some recovery tips:
- Stay home:Be sure you stay home until your fever breaks and your coughing is at least minimal. Staying home and resting not only improves your recovery, it also protects anyone you come into contact with from getting sick.
- Get plenty of rest:Take naps when you need to, and hang low while recovering.
- Drink plenty of fluids:This will help keep your body hydrated as it works to flush out your illness.
- Complete prescription medication: Make sure to complete the full course of any antibiotics, even if youre feeling better.
- Pace yourself:Ease into your typical everyday life.
Pneumonia is a serious infection capable of damaging your lungs. While many people seem to recover from pneumonia fully, its possible your lungs will not be able to return to the same level of activity as before.
This possibility is just one reason why its important to slowly ramp up your activity level as you heal, and practice any breathing techniques your healthcare provider may recommend.
When Would I Need To Be Hospitalized For Pneumonia
If your case of pneumonia is more severe, you may need tostay in the hospital for treatment. Hospital treatments may include:
- Fluids, antibiotics and other medicines given through an IV
- Breathing treatments and exercises to help loosen mucus
People most likely to be hospitalized are those who are most frail and/or at increased risk, including:
- Babies and young children
- People with weakened immune systems
- People with health conditions that affect the heart and lungs
It may take six to eight weeks to return to a normal level of functioning and well-being if youve been hospitalized with pneumonia.
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When Your Child Coughs
Ask your childâs doctor before you give them cough medicine. In fact, if they are younger than 6 years old, ask before you try any over-the-counter remedies. A humidifier next to their bed may help. If they have a hard time sleeping, prop up their head and chest so theyâre higher than the rest of their body. And donât let anyone smoke in your house — that could make their cough worse.
Never Be Afraid To Ask A Doctor Many Questions
You are not expected to know what a doctor knows, and hence, doctors welcome questions.
So there you have it, stated several times by a doctor seeing my mother who, two days prior, was told that she no longer had pneumonia, but was still having occasional bouts of productive coughing-phlegm or sputum coming up.
The doctor also said that its good that all that phlegm is coming up, and that the patient should never swallow it.
Dr. Besser provides comprehensive family care, treating common and acute primary conditions like diabetes and hypertension. Her ongoing approach allows her the opportunity to provide accurate and critical diagnoses of more complex conditions and disorders.
Lorra Garrick is a former personal trainer certified by the American Council on Exercise. At Bally Total Fitness she trained clients of all ages for fat loss, muscle building, fitness and improved health.
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How Is A Common Cold Diagnosed
Your doctor will ask you about your symptoms and do a physical examination to check if you have:
- Swelling or redness inside of your nose and throat
- Swollen lymph nodes in the neck
- Congestion in the chest
Your doctor may order tests, including:
- Blood tests if you have a fever or if they suspect an allergy or other medical condition causing the symptoms of cold
- Nasal swab to test for the flu virus
- Chest X-rays rule out lung infections, such as pneumonia
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What Is Covid Pneumonia
Dr. Lee: Pneumonia occurs when a bacterial or viral infection causes significant damage and inflammation in the lungs. The resulting fluid and debris build-up makes it hard for a person to breathe sometimes to such an extent that oxygen therapy or ventilator support is required. Regardless of the bacteria or virus causing it, pneumonia can become very serious, even life-threatening.
In the case of COVID pneumonia, the damage to the lungs is caused by the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.
When COVID pneumonia develops, it causes additional symptoms, such as:
- Shortness of breath
- Increased heart rate
- Low blood pressure
What’s more is that COVID pneumonia often occurs in both lungs, rather than just one lung or the other. Additionally, the widespread inflammation that occurs in some people with COVID-19 can lead to acute respiratory distress syndrome a severe type of lung failure.
Like other respiratory infections that cause pneumonia, COVID-19 can cause short-term lung damage. In more severe cases, the damage can last a long time. In fact, early data is showing that up to a third of COVID pneumonia patients have evidence of scarring on X-rays or lung testing a year after the infection.
How Long Can Long Covid Last
Long COVID is said to be present if you’ve had COVID-19 infection, but still have symptoms after 8 weeks. Dr. Tim Spectre and his colleagues at King’s College Hospital have collected data about COVID symptoms using a specially designed app. From this, they have discovered that when infected with COVID
- 1 in 7 had symptoms for 4 weeks
- 1 in 20 had symptoms for 8 weeks
- 1 in 50 had symptoms for 12 weeks or more.
- Many still have symptoms after 9 months or more.
They estimated the risk of Long COVID at around 1 in 20 of those who become infected.
When To Call Your Doctor
âI donât call anything a chronic cough until itâs been there 3 months,â Hill says. âAn allergy cough can last months, as can a cough from a common cold. Everyoneâs had a cold at some point where they just kept coughing. A lot of it just has to run its course.â
But donât wait that long to tell your doctor whatâs going on. Do that around 3-4 weeks if your cough hasnât gone away. Call sooner if you have other symptoms such as shortness of breath, fever, or if youâre coughing up blood.
Are Vaccines Available To Prevent Pneumonia
Yes, there are two types of vaccines specifically approved to prevent pneumonia caused by pneumococcal bacteria. Similar to a flu shot, these vaccines wont protect against all types of pneumonia, but if you do come down with pneumonia, its less likely to be as severe or potentially life-threatening especially for people who are at increased risk for pneumonia.
- Bacterial pneumonia: Two pneumonia vaccines, Pneumovax23® and Prevnar13®, protect against the most common causes of bacterial pneumonia.
- Pneumovax23® protects against 23 different types of pneumococcal bacteria. It is recommended for all adults 65 years of age and older and children over 2 years of age who are at increased risk for pneumonia.
- Prevnar13® protects against 13 types of pneumonia bacteria. It is recommended for all adults 65 years of age and older and children under 2 years of age. Ask your healthcare provider about these vaccines.
If you have children, ask their doctor about other vaccines they should get. Several childhood vaccines help prevent infections caused by the bacteria and viruses that can lead to pneumonia.
When To Call The Doctor
You should call your childs doctor if your child:
- Has trouble breathing or is breathing much faster than usual
- Has a bluish or gray color to the fingernails or lips
- Is older than 6 months and has a fever over 102°F
- Is younger than 6 months and has a temperature over 100.4°F.
- Has a fever for more than a few days after taking antibiotics
When your child should stay home and return to school or childcare
Who Is At Risk Of Pneumonia
Some groups of individuals are much more susceptible to pneumonia than others. These groups include:
- Infants to 2 year olds
- People 65 and older
- Stroke survivors who have swallowing problems or are bedridden.
- Those with weakened immune systems due to disease or medications
- People who smoke, abuse drugs and alcohol
- People with asthma, cystic fibrosis, diabetes or heart failure
For individuals who fall into any of these categories pneumonia can be seriously debilitating and recovery can take months. Early diagnosis combined with proper treatment is crucial to prevent pneumonia from worsening. In some cases patients may be hospitalized to receive intensive treatment and have their progress monitored.
Regardless of your general health and age, if you believe you are suffering from pneumonia it is crucial you get an official diagnosis and treatment plan from your doctor as soon as possible so you can start feeling healthy again.
Final Thoughts From The Doctor
As I write thison November 17th, 2020there have been just over 11.5 million cases of COVID in the US and 252,000 deaths. If the chance of LONG COVID is 1 in 20 , that’s 565,000 people already, around the world, who still have symptoms, and we have no idea how long these will last.
If you have just tested positive to COVID-19, you have a 95% chance of being pretty much back to normal within 14 days. However, that unlucky 5% may well have symptoms for much longer.
What can you do to increase your chances of a mild COVID infection? Try and reduce your lifestyle factors lose weight, take exercise, eat healthily, stop smoking. Get your body fit and your immune system will be ready for action.
And do everything you can to prevent gettingand spreadingCOVID-19 in the first place until there’s a vaccine available: Wear yourface mask, get tested if you think you have coronavirus, avoid crowds , practice social distancing, only run essential errands, wash your hands regularly, disinfect frequently touched surfaces, stay outdoors more than indoors. “We have seen what happens when you don’t do that by the very unfortunate experiences that have become very public now in the United States. I mean, that’s proof positive,” says Fauci. And to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don’t miss these35 Places You’re Most Likely to Catch COVID.
Dr. Deborah Lee is a medical writer for Dr Fox Online Pharmacy.