Most people are unclear about what pneumonia symptoms look like and how to identify them. That is because pneumonia can have a variety of causes, including bacterial, fungal and viral, each of which affects the severity of the symptoms and the infection itself. While all types of pneumonia involve the air sacs (alveoli) in one or both sides of the lungs filling up with fluid or pus, the seriousness of the disease can vary quite a lot. As such, if you are at a higher risk of developing pneumonia, it is a good idea to become familiar with pneumonia symptoms and signs so that you know when to seek medical attention.
Signs of Pneumonia
The signs of pneumonia and pneumonia symptoms can range from mild to severe, and could be fatal for people who are already at risk, like those with COPD. If you have the following signs of pneumonia, see your doctor right away. If you are in a high-risk group, seek emergency medical attention.
- Blue-tinged lips or nail beds
- Chills with shaking
- Cough, with phlegm or bloody mucus, that does not improve with time
- Develop shortness of breath with normal activity
- High fever
- Loss of appetite with low energy and fatigue
- Rapid, shallow breathing
- Sharp or stabbing chest pain when you breathe or cough
- Suddenly feeling worse following cold or flu
You could also experience other pneumonia symptoms, like nausea, vomiting or diarrhea, in conjunction with those above.
Pneumonia Symptoms for Adults
It is important to note that the pneumonia symptoms for adults are different than those for others. While the signs of pneumonia above are common pneumonia symptoms for adults, they can be different in other ages and populations. Nausea and vomiting are especially common in small children with pneumonia, while newborns and infants may not show any signs of pneumonia at all. Older adults and people with compromised immune symptoms may experience fewer and milder symptoms, but they may show signs of confusion or other changes in mental alertness. People with chronic lung diseases are likely to experience worsening symptoms.
Types of Pneumonia
There are three types of pneumonia, each of which causes inflammation in the alveoli, causing them to fill with fluid. However, each type has a different set of causes, symptoms and treatments. Below are the three types of pneumonia and what you should know about each of them.
In adults, bacteria is the most common cause of pneumonia. While streptococcus pneumoniae or pneumococcus are the most common bacteria that causes pneumonia, other bacteria can cause it as well. Bacterial pneumonia often only affects one lung, and can develop on its own or after you have had a cold or the flu.
Viral pneumonia is caused by the same viruses that cause respiratory tract infections. The flu virus is the most common cause in adults, while respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is the most common cause in children under the age of one. Most cases of viral pneumonia are relatively mild and improve within one to three weeks on their own. However, more serious cases may require hospitalization. Viral pneumonia does put you at risk of developing bacterial pneumonia.
Fungal pneumonia can be caused by several fungi. Pneumocystis jirovecii causes a serious fungal infection affecting people with compromised immune systems, like HIV/AIDS patients and patients on immunosuppressants. Coccidioidomycosis, which is a fungus found in Southern California and in the deserts of the southwest, causes a type of fungal pneumonia known as valley fever. Histoplasmosis is a fungus found in Ohio and Mississippi River valleys, and cryptococcus, which is found in bird droppings and soil contaminated with bird droppings, also cause fungal pneumonia.
Your treatment plan will depend on what kind of pneumonia you have been diagnosed with, as well as your age, overall health and whether you are in a high risk group. In most cases, bacterial pneumonia is treated with an antibiotic, while viral pneumonia is often treated at home with rest, hydration and fever reducers. Fungal pneumonia will require antifungal medication, and extreme cases may require surgical debriding. No matter what the cause, you will need to get plenty of rest to avoid a recurrence and take the full course of any medications you are prescribed. If complications occur, you are not getting better with prescribed treatments or your blood oxygen or heart rate are too low, you may need to be hospitalized.
If your blood oxygen is too low, you may require oxygen therapy to improve your oxygen levels and help you breathe easier. For younger children and patients in high-risk groups, oxygen therapy is especially important for effectively treating hypoxia and hypoxemia. If your doctor recommends oxygen therapy to help treat your pneumonia symptoms, ask if portable oxygen concentrators, like those from Inogen, are right for you. Ask how Inogen can help treat your pneumonia symptoms so you can breathe better and get the oxygen you need anytime, anywhere.