What is pneumonia?
Pneumonia is an infection deep in your lungs. The infection involves the small air sacs in your lungs (alveoli). Pneumonia is different from infection of the air passages (bronchi) in your lungs. Infection of the air passages is called bronchitis Acute Bronchitis Your bronchi are the tubes that carry air into your lungs. Bronchitis is when the bronchi become swollen and irritated. Acute bronchitis starts suddenly, usually over a few days. Acute bronchitis... read more .
Inside the Lungs and Airways
You usually cough up mucus and have a fever
You may have chest pain, chills, or trouble breathing
Your symptoms can be very mild (sometimes called "walking pneumonia") or very serious
Symptoms are often worse in young children, older people, and people with other lung problems such as COPD Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) COPD is a disease in your lungs that makes it hard to breathe. It's hard to push air out of your lungs. Difficulty pushing air out is called chronic airflow obstruction. Smoking cigarettes is... read more (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)
Most people recover, but pneumonia can be fatal
Every year, about 55,000 people in the United States die from pneumonia.
What causes pneumonia?
Pneumonia can be caused by many different types of germs, including:
Viruses (most common)
Usually, the germs are passed from one person to another. If you touch something that has germs on it, the germs can get in your mouth, nose, or throat. Usually, your body fights off the germs. But sometimes the germs get in your lungs and cause an infection.
What are the risk factors for getting pneumonia?
Anyone can get pneumonia, but it's more likely if you have a weakened immune system because you are:
Very young or very old
Taking certain medicines (such as corticosteroids or chemotherapy drugs)
Weakened by having other serious illnesses (such as diabetes Diabetes Diabetes is a disease in which your blood sugar (glucose) levels are too high. You get diabetes if your body's normal way of controlling blood sugar isn't working right. There are 2 types of... read more or heart failure Heart Failure Your heart pumps blood to carry oxygen and nutrients to the rest of your body. Heart failure is when your heart doesn’t pump blood as well as it should. It doesn’t mean your heart has stopped... read more )
Other risk factors for pneumonia include:
Being in a hospital for a long time (where you're exposed to lots of germs)
Being on a breathing machine (ventilator)
What are the symptoms of pneumonia?
Feeling run down
Fever and chills (shivering so hard your teeth chatter)
A cough that may or may not bring up mucus
Trouble breathing (feeling like you can't get enough air in)
Pain in your chest
Symptoms may be a little different in people who are very old:
They may not have a fever
Older adults may be confused and may not think clearly
How can doctors tell if I have pneumonia?
To find out if you have pneumonia, your doctor will:
Listen to your lungs as you breathe
If you're sick enough with pneumonia to be admitted to the hospital, doctors usually do blood tests and send samples of your sputum (stuff you cough up) to the lab.
How do doctors treat pneumonia?
Doctors treat pneumonia with:
Antibiotics that work best for the type of germ that’s causing the problem (but not all germs that cause pneumonia can be killed by antibiotics)
Medicines to help with fever or pain
Sometimes extra fluids or oxygen
You may need a chest x-ray about 6 weeks after treatment to make sure the pneumonia is gone, especially if you smoke or are older.
Most people can stay home during treatment. Some people may stay in the hospital, including people who:
Are very young or very old
Have very serious pneumonia symptoms
How can I keep from getting pneumonia?
If you smoke, stop smoking Smoking Cessation While often very challenging, quitting smoking is one of the most important things smokers can do for their health. Quitting smoking brings immediate health benefits that increase over time... read more .
Get a yearly flu vaccine Influenza Vaccine The influenza virus vaccine helps protect against influenza. Two types of influenza virus, type A and type B, regularly cause seasonal epidemics of influenza in the United States. There are... read more (shot), because having the flu can lead to pneumonia.
Ask your doctor whether you also need a pneumonia vaccine Pneumococcal Vaccine Pneumococcal vaccines help protect against bacterial infections caused by Streptococcus pneumoniae (pneumococci). Pneumococcal infections include ear infections, sinusitis, pneumonia... read more , which is recommended for:
All children before age 2
Adults 65 or older
People of any age who have certain health problems or smoke cigarettes