Pneumonia (patient information)
For the WikiDoc page on Pneumonia, click here.
For the WikiDoc page on Community-acquired pneumonia, click here.
Pneumonia On the Web
Pneumonia is a respiratory condition in which there is inflammation of the lung. Community-acquired pneumonia refers to pneumonia in people who have not recently been in the hospital or another health care facility (nursing home, rehabilitation facility).
What are the symptoms of Pneumonia?
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
- Shortness of breath (may only occur when you climb 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
What causes Pneumonia?
Ways you can get pneumonia include:
- Bacteria and viruses living in your nose, sinuses, or mouth may spread to your lungs.
- You may breathe some of these germs directly into your lungs.
- You breathe in (inhale) food, liquids, vomit, or secretions from the mouth into your lungs (aspiration pneumonia)
- The most common pneumonia-causing germ in adults is Streptococcus pneumoniae (pneumococcus).
- Atypical pneumonia, often called walking pneumonia, is caused by bacteria such as Legionella pneumophila, Mycoplasma pneumoniae, and Chlamydophila pneumoniae.
- Pneumocystis jiroveci pneumonia is sometimes seen in people whose immune system is impaired (due to AIDS or certain medications that suppress the immune system).
- Staphylococcus aureus, Moraxella catarrhalis, Streptococcus pyogenes, Neisseria meningitidis, Klebsiella pneumoniae, or Haemophilus influenzae are other bacteria that can cause pneumonia.
- Tuberculosis can cause pneumonia in some people, especially those with a weak immune system.
See also: Respiratory syncytial virus
Who is at highest risk?
Risk factors (conditions that increase your chances of getting pneumonia) include:
- Cigarette smoking
- Recent viral respiratory infection (common cold, laryngitis, influenza)
- Difficulty swallowing (due to stroke, dementia, Parkinson's disease, or other neurological conditions)
- Chronic lung disease (COPD, bronchiectasis, cystic fibrosis)
- Cerebral palsy
- Other serious illnesses, such as heart disease, liver cirrhosis, or diabetes mellitus
- Living in a nursing facility
- Impaired consciousness (loss of brain function due to dementia, stroke, or other neurologic conditions)
- Recent surgery or trauma
- Immune system problem
When to seek urgent medical care?
Call your doctor if you have:
- Worsening respiratory symptoms
- Shortness of breath, shaking chills, or persistent fevers
- Rapid or painful breathing
- A cough that brings up bloody or rust-colored mucus
- Chest pain that worsens when you cough or inhale
- Night sweats or unexplained weight loss
- Signs of pneumonia and weak immune system, as with HIV or chemotherapy
If you have pneumonia, you may be working hard to breathe, or breathing fast. Crackles are heard when listening to your chest with a stethoscope. Other abnormal breathing sounds may also be heard through the stethoscope or via percussion (tapping on your chest wall). The health care provider will likely order a chest x-ray if pneumonia is suspected. Some patients may need other tests, including:
- CBC to check white blood cell count
- Arterial blood gases to see if enough oxygen is getting into your blood from the lungs
- CT scan of the chest
- Gram's stain and culture of your sputum to look for the organism causing your symptoms
- Pleural fluid culture if there is fluid in the space surrounding the lungs
Your doctor must first decide whether you need to be in the hospital. If you are treated in the hospital, you will receive fluids and antibiotics in your veins, oxygen therapy, and possibly breathing treatments. It is very important that your antibiotics are started very soon after you are admitted. You are more likely to be admitted to the hospital if you:
- Have another serious medical problem
- Have severe symptoms
- Are unable to care for yourself at home, or are unable to eat or drink
- Are older than 65 or a young child
- Have been taking antibiotics at home and are not getting better
However, many people can be treated at home. If bacteria are causing the pneumonia, the doctor will try to cure the infection with antibiotics. It may be hard for your health care provider to know whether you have a viral or bacterial pneumonia, so you may receive antibiotics. Patients with mild pneumonia who are otherwise healthy are sometimes treated with oral macrolide antibiotics (azithromycin, clarithromycin, or erythromycin). Patients with other serious illnesses, such as heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or emphysema, kidney disease, or diabetes are often given one of the following:
- Fluoroquinolone (levofloxacin (Levaquin), sparfloxacin (Zagam), gemifloxacin (Factive), or moxifloxacin (Avelox)
- High-dose amoxicillin or amoxicillin-clavulanate, plus a macrolide antibiotic (azithromycin, clarithromycin, or erythromycin)
- Cephalosporin antibiotics (for example, cefuroxime or cefpodoxime) plus a macrolide (azithromycin, clarithromycin, or erythromycin)
- Drink plenty of fluids to help loosen secretions and bring up phlegm.
- Get lots of rest. Have someone else do household chores.
- Do not take cough medicines without first talking to your doctor. Cough medicines may make it harder for your body to cough up the extra sputum.
- Control your fever with aspirin, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen or naproxen), or acetaminophen. DO NOT give aspirin to children.
Where to find medical care for Pneumonia?
What to expect (Outlook/Prognosis)?
Those who may be more likely to have complicated pneumonia include:
- Older adults or very young children
- People whose immune system does not work well
- People with other, serious medical problems such as diabetes or cirrhosis of the liver
Possible complications include:
- Respiratory failure, which requires a breathing machine or ventilator
- Empyema or lung abscesses. These are infrequent, but serious, complications of pneumonia. They occur when pockets of pus form inside or around the lung. These may sometimes need to be drained with surgery.
- Sepsis, a condition in which there is uncontrolled swelling (inflammation) in the body, which may lead to organ failure
- Acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), a severe form of respiratory failure
Wash your hands frequently, especially after blowing your nose, going to the bathroom, diapering, and before eating or preparing foods. Don't smoke. Tobacco damages your lung's ability to ward off infection. Vaccines may help prevent pneumonia in children, the elderly, and people with diabetes, asthma, emphysema, HIV, cancer, or other chronic conditions:
- Pneumococcal vaccine (Pneumovax, Prevnar) lowers your chances of getting pneumonia from Streptococcus pneumoniae.
- Flu vaccine prevents pneumonia and other problems caused by the influenza virus. It must be given yearly to protect against new virus strains.
- Hib vaccine prevents pneumonia in children from Haemophilus influenzae type b.
- A drug called Synagis (palivizumab) is given to some children younger than 24 months to prevent pneumonia caused by respiratory syncytial virus.