By Alfa Hunt
Greene Publishing, Inc.
Pneumonia is caused by bacteria and viruses that are breathed into the lungs. People are more likely to develop pneumonia after they have just recovered from a cold or the flu. These illnesses make it hard for the lungs to fight off infection, making it 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.
Symptoms of pneumonia caused by bacteria develop quickly. They may include: coughing up rusty, green mucus which can sometimes by tinged with blood, fever, rapid breathing and feeling short of breath, shaking and “teeth chattering” chills, chest pain that worsens when you cough or breathe in, a fast heartbeat, a feeling of extreme fatigue or weakness, nausea and vomiting and diarrhea.
When the host has mild symptoms of pneumonia, physicians may refer to this as “walking pneumonia.” Older adults may have different, fewer, or milder symptoms than younger generations. The main sign of pneumonia in older adults may be a sudden change in how well they think. Confusion or delirium is common. Symptoms caused by viruses are the same as those caused by bacteria. But they may come on slowly and often are not as obvious or as severe.
Your doctor will ask you about your symptoms and do a physical exam when testing for pneumonia. The health care provider may order a chest X-ray and a blood test. This is usually enough for your doctor to know if you have pneumonia. You may need more tests if you have bad symptoms, are an older adult, or have other health problems. The doctor may also test the mucus from your lungs to find out which germ is causing your pneumonia. Finding the exact germ can help your doctor to choose the best medicine for you.
Antibiotics most often cure pneumonia caused by bacteria. You need to take the antibiotics as your doctor prescribes. Call your doctor if your do not start to feel better after two to three days and call your physician right away if you begin to feel worse.
There are several things you can do to feel better during your treatment: get plenty of rest and drink plenty of liquids. Do not smoke if you are a smoker. If your cough keeps you awake at night, talk to your doctor about using cough medicine. You may need to go to the hospital if you have severe symptoms, a weak immune system, or another serious illness.
Pneumonia caused by a virus cannot be treated with antibiotics. Home treatment, such as rest and taking care of your cough, is the only treatment. The symptoms will usually clear after about two to three weeks at the most.
You may be able to prevent pneumonia if you are older than 65 or you have a heart or lung problem by getting a pneumonia vaccine. It may not keep you from getting pneumonia, but if you do contract it, you will not be as sick as you would be otherwise. You can also lower your chances of getting pneumonia by avoiding people who have the flu, colds, measles, or chickenpox. You may contract pneumonia after you have one of these illnesses.
However, the most important thing to remember is that if you think you may have pneumonia, please call your doctor immediately. Do not wait!
By Alfa Hunt