Pneumonia is a common infection that often ranges in severity. Some forms are mild, while others lead to emergency care. Many bacteria, viruses, and even fungi cause pneumonia, making it a complex disease from which to protect yourself. Although some cases present themselves as a common cold or flu, severe cases often cause life-threatening complications that can leave someone critically ill.
Determining whether you’re down with pneumonia or the flu involves knowing its signs and treatment. In this guide, we’ll be discussing its symptoms, diagnosis, and when to see your doctor. Here’s what you need to know:
The Symptoms of Pneumonia
Pneumonia manifests itself in numerous ways. Some symptoms are mild and manageable, while others will require you to seek immediate medical assistance. If you have mild symptoms, your doctor may refer to it as ‘walking pneumonia,’ and you’ll likely need plenty of fluids and medication. However, severe symptoms will require you to visit a hospital.
Most people with pneumonia experience one or more of the following symptoms:
- Productive cough
- Shortness of breath even without strenuous activity or while resting
- Appetite loss
- Vomiting or nausea
It may be more challenging to identify pneumonia in babies, but it’s important to note when they are lethargic, vomit, or eat or drink poorly. Children younger than five years of age often wheeze and breathe quickly. Older people often experience milder symptoms, although they usually have a lowered body temperature and some confusion.
When to See Your Doctor for Pneumonia Symptoms
If you are experiencing difficulties in breathing, chest pain, an enduring cough, or a fever of 102ºF or higher, you must see your family doctor right away. If you are producing phlegm or mucus, that’s a sign that your pneumonia may have progressed into something more severe.
Seeing a doctor right away will prevent complications, so it’s vital to ensure that high-risk patients like infants, children, and the elderly seek treatment immediately. Those with compromised immune systems like heart failure must also consult a medical professional.
Early diagnosis and treatment are essential for a quick recovery. It also reduces the risk of contracting life-threatening complications, which are debilitating and often expensive to treat.
For your doctor to accurately diagnose pneumonia, they will ask you about your medical history and all its symptoms. After that, your doctor will carry out a physical exam.
Your primary care doctor will also need to rule out other possible causes of your symptoms, so they will likely ask for a complete blood count (CBC) test and a chest X-ray. They will also need sputum for your lungs to determine the microorganism that is causing the infection.
The most common way to treat pneumonia is through antibiotics, as bacteria often cause it. However, if your sputum indicates viral infection, your doctor will recommend antiviral medication instead. Some cases require a combination of both antiviral and antibiotic treatment to prevent complications.
If you have bacterial pneumonia, you should begin to feel better after two to three days of taking antibiotics. It’s essential to finish the full course of antibiotics to eliminate the bacteria and ensure effectiveness. However, if you feel worse or do not feel better, it’s best to talk to your doctor.
However, if you have walking pneumonia, you have mild enough symptoms that still allow you to carry on with your activities. Although you do not require bed rest or hospitalization, it’s essential to keep your distance from other people, as some types of pneumonia are highly contagious.
If you have severe pneumonia, you must visit a hospital for adequate monitoring and care. As you recover from the illness, make sure you drink lots of fluids and get plenty of sleep.
Pneumonia is a fairly common disease that has overlapping symptoms with other illnesses. When you start showing signs of pneumonia, it’s best to consult your family doctor for immediate assistance. Doing this will prevent the disease from progressing into a condition that is debilitating and life-threatening.
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