When To Call A Doctor
If you have trouble breathing or severe chest pain, see a doctor as soon as possible, or go to the emergency room.
Pneumonia symptoms often resemble those of the flu or a cold. But if your symptoms are severe or last for more than three days, see a doctor. Untreated pneumonia can do permanent damage to your lungs.
According to Dr. Wayne Tsuang, a lung specialist at the Cleveland Clinic, whether you get pneumonia in one lung or both lungs is largely due to chance. This is the case whether the infection is viral, bacterial, or fungal.
In general, certain populations have a higher risk of getting pneumonia:
- infants and toddlers
What To Expect By Age And Health
Here is how age can affect your recovery from pneumonia:
- Infants under the age of 6 months are typically hospitalized for pneumonia out of an abundance of caution.
- Children over the age of 6 months are more likely to be treated at home, provided they are typically healthy.
- Older adults may take longer to bounce back from pneumonia since our immune system naturally weakens the older we get, especially if you have a preexisting health condition. Its also more common for the elderly and chronically ill to be hospitalized for pneumonia since the rate of complications and mortality increases for those over the age of 65.
Can The Pneumonia Vaccine Prevent Pneumonia
It is not possible to prevent all types of pneumonia, but one can take steps to reduce the chance of contracting the condition by quitting smoking, practicing good hand-washing, and avoiding contact with people who have colds, the flu, or other infections.
A vaccine is available against the most common bacterial cause of pneumonia, Streptococcus pneumoniae . There are two types of vaccine: PPSV23 , a pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine against 23 types of the bacteria, and PCV13 , a pneumococcal conjugate vaccine that protects against 13 types of the bacteria. These vaccines may not always prevent pneumococcal pneumonia, but they may prevent serious complications of pneumonia if it does occur.
Avoidance of areas where fungal pathogens are endemic is recommended to prevent fungal pneumonias. There is no antifungal vaccine available however, for some high-risk patients, some doctors have recommended prophylactic antifungal drugs.
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How Long Does It Take To Recover From Pneumonia
“Pneumonia is a serious illness that can take quite a toll on a person’s lungs and body. It can take anywhere from a week to several months to fully recover from it,” says Dr. Rayman Lee, pulmonologist at Houston Methodist.
The length of time it takes for you to recover from pneumonia is influenced by:
- Your age
- The severity of your illness
- Whether you have other health conditions
- The type of pneumonia
If you’re generally healthy and have only a mild case of pneumonia, your symptoms should begin to improve one to two days after starting treatment.
“Most people with mild pneumonia are able to return to their everyday activities in a week, although fatigue and cough can linger for an entire month,” says Dr. Lee.
Recovery timelines become more murky for people who have severe pneumonia.
“For more serious cases that require hospitalization, we’re not only focused on clearing the infection, we’re also focused on preventing or treating complications that can develop including difficulty breathing, fluid buildup in the lungs, sepsis, acute respiratory distress syndrome and lung abscesses,” warns Dr. Lee.
Pneumonia and its complications can wreak havoc on a person’s lungs and body. And, it can take anywhere from one to six months for a person to recover and regain strength after being hospitalized for pneumonia.
How Can I Prevent Aspiration Pneumonia Or Reduce My Risk Of Getting Aspiration Pneumonia
Things that you can do to reduce your risk of aspiration pneumonia include the following:
- Avoid drinking alcohol to excess and using recreational drugs. These can affect your ability to swallow.
- Stay upright when you are eating.
- Chew slowly and completely.
- If you have problems swallowing , talk to your healthcare provider. They might need to change or adjust your diet or medication. They can also order tests or refer you to a speech professional or swallowing specialist.
- Dont smoke or use nicotine products.
- Take good care of your teeth.
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What Are The Types Of Pneumonia
Sometimes, types of pneumonia are referred to by the type of organism that causes the inflammation, such as bacterial pneumonia, viral pneumonia, or fungal pneumonia. The specific organism name may also be used to describe the types of pneumonia, such as pneumococcal pneumonia or Legionella pneumonia.
Other types of pneumonia that are commonly referenced include the following:
- Aspiration pneumonia develops as a result of inhaling food or drink, saliva, or vomit into the lungs. This occurs when the swallowing reflex is impaired, such as with brain injury or in an intoxicated person.
- Several types of bacteria, including Legionella pneumophila, Mycoplasma pneumoniae, and Chlamydophila pneumoniae, cause atypical pneumonia. It is sometimes called “walking pneumonia” and is referred to as atypical because its symptoms differ from those of other types of bacterial pneumonia.
- Pneumonia that arises from being on a ventilator for respiratory support in the intensive care setting is known as ventilator-associated pneumonia.
How Long Is Hospitalization
The time a person spends in the hospital depends on how severe the clot is and whether the persons body is dissolving the clot on its own. Some people may not need to stay in the hospital at all, while others may require 1 week or more.
A 2015 study looked at the length of hospital stay in 766 cases of pulmonary embolism in Italian hospital patients. While 19% of people with pulmonary embolism stayed in the hospital for 5 days or less, 17% of patients had treatment at home.
A 2018 study suggests some people with low risk pulmonary embolism may not require hospitalization. The study looked at 200 adults with acute low risk pulmonary embolism.
The study participants stayed in the hospital under observation for 1224 hours, before undergoing outpatient treatment with blood thinning medication.
After a 90-day follow-up, no deaths or repeat blood clots had occurred. One participant experienced significant bleeding. Overall, however, participants reported a high satisfaction level with the care.
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What Is The Recovery Time For Pneumonia In The Elderly
A simple Google search for that question makes us think that an elderly person can recover from pneumonia in in as little as two weeks but it may take two months or longer to recover completely.
A study that appeared in the Patient Related Outcome Measures Journal shed some light on the vast difference between a short recovery and a long one.
They begin by understanding the health status of the elderly person who is afflicted with pneumonia. For those that are in good health, expect a recovery time of about three weeks. In that period, shortness of breath, weakness, and fatigue are common. If the elderly person has existing health conditions, especially those that involve the respiratory system, such as COPD the recovery period can take as long as 60 or more days and be far more challenging.
How Can I Help Myself Feel Better
If your doctor has prescribed medicine, follow the directions carefully.
You may feel better in a room with a humidifier, which increases the moisture in the air and soothes irritated lungs. Make sure you drink plenty of fluids, especially if you have a fever. If you have a fever and feel uncomfortable, ask the doctor whether you can take over-the-counter medicine such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen to bring it down. But don’t take any medicine without checking first with your doctor a cough suppressant, for example, may not allow your lungs to clear themselves of mucus.
And finally, be sure to rest. This is a good time to sleep, watch TV, read, and lay low. If you treat your body right, it will repair itself and you’ll be back to normal in no time.
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What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of Pneumonia In The Elderly
As with many diseases and illnesses, the signs and symptoms vary from one person to the next and may mimic other disorders too. In general terms, the following are common signs and symptoms of pneumonia in the elderly.
As mentioned, the symptoms of pneumonia vary from one person to the next and change based on the health level of the person who is inflicted. Those with chronic disease have the hardest time, but pneumonia can be deadly even in the healthiest of our elders.
When To See A Doctor If You Think You Have Pneumonia
It can be difficult to tell the difference between any type of cold or respiratory infection and pneumonia in the early stages. Many respiratory infections can cause a cough thats either wet or dry and begins to clear in 2 to 3 weeks. If your cough is lasting longer, or becoming more severe during that time even with medication, you may want to see a doctor.
If you begin to experience signs of more severe infection like a fever above 102°F or confusion, or if you start to have trouble breathing, you should see a doctor right away.
If you cant quickly make an appointment quickly with a doctor or you have severe breathing trouble, seek care immediately at an emergency department.
How you are treated for pneumonia will depend on the infection that triggered it and how sick you become. Antibiotics are typically used to treat pneumonia, but viral and fungal pneumonia may require alternative treatments.
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The 4 Stages Of Pneumonia
Pneumonia remains a leading cause of death worldwide. Lobar pneumonia is typically the more fatal form of this infection because it tends to encompass the entirety of the lobe.
While lobar pneumonia is usually described as moving through phases, new research suggests that severe illness or even death can occur in any of these stages, and you may not move through these stages in an orderly fashion. Its also possible for you to be in more than one stage of this progression at a time.
Typically, these stages are used to help guide treatment and grade the severity of a lobar pneumonia infection. Below is an explanation of each stage.
Why Does It Take So Long To Recover From Pneumonia
You can’t see the damage pneumonia causes, but you certainly feel it.
The air sacs in your lungs become inflamed during pneumonia, leading to soreness and pain. If the infection and inflammation progress, your lungs may fill with fluid and dead lung tissue, leading to the green, yellow or even bloody mucus you cough up. This fluid may also affect how well oxygen is able to transfer into your bloodstream, leading to difficulty breathing.
“Once the infection is cleared with treatment, your body still has to deal with removing all of the fluid, damage and debris left behind in your lungs. This can take a few weeks, resulting in a lingering cough and reduced lung capacity,” explains Dr. Lee. “During this time, you may find physical exertion more tiring than usual.”
A more severe case of pneumonia can cause even more damage to your lungs, which can be significant and even permanent in some cases.
“After severe pneumonia, lung capacity is reduced and muscles may be weak from being so ill. Significant weight loss can further contribute to weakness and other health conditions may be aggravated due to the stress placed on the body during illness. These are all things your body will need time to recover from,” says Dr. Lee.
In fact, it may take another several months for you to fully heal and regain strength.
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Is Pneumonia Contagious
Most types of bacterial pneumonia are not highly contagious. Even though it is possible to spread bacteria from one person to another, pneumonia typically occurs in people with risk factors or weakened immune defenses when bacteria that are normally present in the nose or throat invade the lung tissue. Any kind of bacterial or viral pneumonia has the potential to be contagious, but Mycoplasma pneumoniae and Mycobacterium tuberculosis are two types of bacterial pneumonia that are highly contagious. Breathing in infected droplets that come from patients who are coughing or sneezing can spread the disease to others.
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.
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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.
Causes And Risk Factors
Aspiration pneumonia often occurs if a person has a compromised immune system and inhales an object containing a lot of germs.
In many cases, the person will cough automatically, which will expel these unwanted particles and prevent aspiration pneumonia from developing.
People who have an impaired ability to cough may be more at risk of developing an infection from inhaling something, particularly if the object was large or was a source of infectious germs.
Other risk factors for aspiration pneumonia include:
- esophageal disorders or dysfunction
Anyone with these symptoms should contact their doctor immediately for a proper diagnosis and treatment.
Signs such as colored phlegm and high fever in children or older adults justify a trip to urgent care.
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Symptoms During The Gray Hepatization Phase
This is the more severe phase of lobar pneumonia, and while you may not notice as much coughing or sputum production, shortness of breath is common. Your alveoli are surrounded by swelling and fibrous strands that keep them from moving gases like oxygen in and out of your bloodstream.
You might have symptoms of hypoxia as your gas exchange is impaired. This is a life threatening emergency. Call emergency services or go to the nearest emergency room if you experience:
- a blueish tinge to your lips or nail beds
- severe shortness of breath
- a rapid heartbeat
- shallow breathing
In this stage, supplemental oxygen or even mechanical ventilation may be required to prevent additional complications from hypoxia.
What Is The Recovery Time For Covid Pneumonia
Dr. Lee: Regardless of what causes it, regaining strength after pneumonia can take quite a long time from several weeks to many months.
During COVID pneumonia recovery, your body first has to repair the damage caused to the lungs then it has to deal with clearing leftover fluid and debris and, finally, scarring until the tissue is fully healed over all of which come with unpleasant symptoms.
For the 15% of infected individuals who develop moderate to severe COVID-19 and are admitted to the hospital for a few days and require oxygen, the average recovery time ranges between three to six weeks.
For the 5% who develop severe or critical illness, recovery can take much longer.
Everyone’s recovery is unique and depends on:
- Your overall health
- Whether you have preexisting conditions
- The severity of your infection
If you are recovering from COVID pneumonia and experiencing persistent problems, I recommend seeing your doctor for a follow-up evaluation. If your recovery is prolonged, he or she may recommend a specialized program, such as pulmonary rehabilitation, to help get you back on track.
In some cases, patients will have lingering symptoms after the initial COVID-19 infection, often called post-COVID syndrome. These “long haulers” can have variety of problems, since the virus can attack not only the lungs, but also the heart, kidneys and brain. Your doctor can also help you manage these lingering symptoms.
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Are Side Effects Associated With The Pneumonia Vaccine
Side effects of PCV13 in children include drowsiness, temporary loss of appetite, or redness, swelling, or tenderness where the shot was given. Mild fever and irritability are other common side effects. Adults receiving pneumococcal vaccines have reported pain, redness, rash, and swelling where the shot was given also mild fever, fatigue, headache, chills, or muscle pain.
Any type of vaccine has the potential to cause an allergic reaction, which can be severe, but this side effect is rare. This would happen within minutes to a few hours after receiving the vaccine.