Pneumonia is a lung infection that can make you very sick. You may cough, run a fever, and have a hard time breathing. For many individuals, pneumonia can be treated at home. It often clears up in two to three weeks. But elderly adults, babies, and people with other diseases can become very ill. They might need to be in the hospital.
You can get pneumonia in your daily life, such as at school or work. This is called community-associated pneumonia. You can also get it when you are in a hospital or nursing home. This is called healthcare-associated pneumonia. It may be more severe because you already are ill. This topic focuses on pneumonia you get in your daily life.
Germs called bacteria or viruses usually cause pneumonia.
Pneumonia usually starts when you breathe the bacteria into the lungs. You may be more likely to find the disease after having a cold or the flu. These health problems make it hard for your lungs to deal with infection, so it is easier to get pneumonia. Having a long-term, or chronic, disease like asthma, heart disease, cancer, or diabetes also makes you more likely to get pneumonia.
Anyone can get pneumonia. It’s commonly a complication of a respiratory infection—especially the flu—but there are more than 30 different causes of the illness. Older adults, children and people with chronic disease, including COPD and asthma, are at high risk for pneumonia.
What Are the Symptoms of Pneumonia?
Pneumonia symptoms can vary from mild to severe, with regards to the type of pneumonia you have.
The most common symptoms of pneumonia are:
- Cough (with some pneumonias you may cough up greenish or yellow mucus, or even bloody mucus)
- Fever, which may be mild or high
- Shaking chills
- Lack of breath, which might only occur when you climb up stairs
Additional symptoms include:
- Sharp or stabbing chest pain that gets worse when you breathe deeply or cough
- Excessive sweating and clammy skin
- Loss of appetite, low energy, and fatigue
- Confusion, especially in older people
Symptoms also can vary, depending on whether your pneumonia is bacterial or virus-like.
In bacterial pneumonia, your temperature may rise as high as 105 degrees F. This pneumonia can cause profuse sweating, and rapidly increased breathing and pulse rate. Lips and nailbeds may have a bluish color due to lack of oxygen in the blood. A patient’s mental state may be confused or delirious.
The initial symptoms of viral pneumonia are the same as influenza symptoms: fever, a dry cough, headache, muscle pain, and weakness. Within 12 to 36 hours, there is increasing breathlessness; the cough becomes worse and produces a small amount of mucus. There may be a high fever and there may be blueness of the lips.
What causes pneumonia?
Pneumonia is usually the consequence of a pneumococcal illness, caused by bacteria called Streptococcus pneumoniae.
Various types of bacteria, including Haemophilus influenzae and Staphylococcus aureus, can also cause pneumonia, as well as malware and, more rarely, fungus.
And bacterial pneumonia, other types include:
- Viral pneumonia – most commonly caused by the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and sometimes influenza type A or B; viruses are a common cause of pneumonia in young children
- Aspiration pneumonia – caused by breathing in vomit, a foreign object, such as a peanut, or a harmful substance, such as smoke or a chemical
- Fungal pneumonia – rare in the UK and more likely to affect people with a weakened immune system
- Hospital-acquired pneumonia – pneumonia that develops in hospital while being treated for another condition or having an operation; people in intensive care on breathing machines are particularly at risk of developing ventilator-associated pneumonia