Breathing easy is something most of us take for granted until our breathing becomes impaired. Such is the case with pneumonia. This condition occurs as a result of an infection in the lungs. The alveoli, or air sacs, in one or both lungs become inflamed. They may also fill with fluid or pus. This causes coughing and difficulty breathing. Fever and chills are other symptoms that accompany pneumonia.
People at a higher risk for complications with pneumonia include young children and infants, adults over 65, and anyone with a weakened immune system. Some health conditions also make individuals more likely to experience a more severe case of pneumonia.
This illness is treated by first determining the severity and type of pneumonia and taking into consideration age and overall health. Antibiotics are used with bacterial pneumonia. Different types of bacteria respond to different medications. The doctor may decide to switch medicines if symptoms do not improve.
Cough medicine is used to help ease coughing bouts and allow you to rest. Coughing has the positive effect of removing the fluid from the lungs, so you do not want to eliminate it completely, but you do need to get some rest. Tylenol, aspirin and ibuprofen are used as part of the treatment to reduce the fever and relieve the discomfort of pneumonia.
Hospitalization is required if kidney function declines or if your blood pressure gets too low (below 90/60 mm Hg). Other indicators that a trip to the hospital may be necessary are:
- Rapid breathing
- Temperature is below normal
- Heart rate is above 100 or lower than 50
- You need breathing assistance
- You experience mental confusion
- You are older than 65
Symptoms of Pneumonia
A mild case of pneumonia can resemble a cold or the flu, but the symptoms will last longer. A severe case may require hospitalization. Signs to look for include:
- Breathing or coughing accompanied by chest pain
- Confusion in older adults (over 65)
- Phlegmy cough
- Fever with sweating and chills
- Nausea/vomiting or diarrhea
- Shortness of breath
Older adults and those with weak immune systems may also have lower than normal body temperatures. Newborn babies do not always show signs of infection. They may vomit or have a fever and cough. They may also show signs of difficulty breathing or eating.
Pneumonia can change quickly from mild to severe. If you are coughing up pus, you need to see the doctor. People with heart problems or chronic lung conditions should see a doctor right away. The same applies to elderly patients and those with suppressed immune systems. Contact Dr. Michael and make an appointment.