Search our database of hundreds of health information articles. They are current, constantly updated, and authoritatively sourced!
What is pneumonia?
Pneumonia is an infection in one or both of the lungs. It causes the air sacs of the lungs to fill up with fluid or pus. It can range from mild to severe, depending on the type of germ causing the infection, your age, and your overall health.What causes pneumonia?
Bacterial, viral, and fungal infections can cause pneumonia.
Bacteria are the most common cause. Bacterial pneumonia can occur on its own. It can also develop after you've had certain viral infections such as a cold or the flu. Several different types of bacteria can cause pneumonia, including
Viruses that infect the respiratory tract may cause pneumonia. Viral pneumonia is often mild and goes away on its own within a few weeks. But sometimes it is serious enough that you need to get treatment in a hospital. If you have viral pneumonia, you are at risk of also getting bacterial pneumonia. The different viruses that can cause pneumonia include
Fungal pneumonia is more common in people who have chronic health problems or weakened immune systems. Some of the types include
Anyone can get pneumonia, but certain factors can increase your risk:
The symptoms of pneumonia can range from mild to severe and include
The symptoms can vary for different groups. Newborns and infants may not show any signs of the infection. Others may vomit and have a fever and cough. They might seem sick, with no energy, or be restless.
Older adults and people who have serious illnesses or weak immune systems may have fewer and milder symptoms. They may even have a lower than normal temperature. Older adults who have pneumonia sometimes have sudden changes in mental awareness.What other problems can pneumonia cause?
Sometimes pneumonia can cause serious complications such as
Sometimes pneumonia can be hard to diagnose. This is because it can cause some of the same symptoms as a cold or the flu. It may take time for you to realize that you have a more serious condition.
To make a diagnosis, your health care provider
If you are in the hospital, have serious symptoms, are older, or have other health problems, you may also have more tests, such as
Treatment for pneumonia depends on the type of pneumonia, which germ is causing it, and how severe it is:
You may need to be treated in a hospital if your symptoms are severe or if you are at risk for complications. While there, you may get additional treatments. For example, if your blood oxygen level is low, you may receive oxygen therapy.
It may take time to recover from pneumonia. Some people feel better within a week. For other people, it can take a month or more.Can pneumonia be prevented?
Vaccines can help prevent pneumonia caused by pneumococcal bacteria or the flu virus. Having good hygiene, not smoking, and having a healthy lifestyle may also help prevent pneumonia.
NIH: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
Pneumocystis jirovecii is a tiny fungus that lives in the lungs of many people. Most people's immune systems keep the fungus under control. But if you have a weakened immune system, the fungus can make you very sick.
The most common type of infection is pneumocystis pneumonia (PCP). PCP once was the major cause of death for people with HIV/AIDS. But now, it is possible to prevent or treat most cases. The key to surviving PCP is early treatment. The first signs of PCP are fever, dry cough, shortness of breath, and fatigue. If you have a weakened immune system and have these symptoms, see your doctor right away.
To diagnose PCP, doctors use a microscope to look for the fungus in a sample of lung fluid or tissue. Treatment is with antibiotics.
There is no vaccine to prevent PCP. Some people who are at high risk of getting PCP may need to take antibiotics to prevent it.
Legionnaires' disease is a type of pneumonia caused by bacteria. You usually get it by breathing in mist from water that contains the bacteria. The mist may come from hot tubs, showers, or air-conditioning units for large buildings. The bacteria don't spread from person to person.
Symptoms of Legionnaires' disease include high fever, chills, a cough, and sometimes muscle aches and headaches. Other types of pneumonia have similar symptoms. You will probably need a chest x-ray to diagnose the pneumonia. Lab tests can detect the specific bacteria that cause Legionnaires' disease.
Most people exposed to the bacteria do not become sick. You are more likely to get sick if you
Legionnaires' disease is serious and can be life-threatening. However, most people recover with antibiotic treatment.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Having HIV/AIDS weakens your body's immune system. It destroys the white blood cells that fight infection. This puts you at risk for opportunistic infections (OIs). OIs are serious infections that take advantage of your weak immune system. These infections are less common and less severe in healthy people.
There are many types of OIs:
Having HIV/AIDS can make infections harder to treat. People with HIV/AIDS are also more likely to have complications from common illnesses such as the flu.
You can help prevent infections by taking your HIV/AIDS medicines. Other things that can help include practicing safe sex, washing your hands well and often, and cooking your food thoroughly.
Every year, lives are lost because of the spread of infections in hospitals. Health care workers can take steps to prevent the spread of infectious diseases. These steps are part of infection control.
Proper hand washing is the most effective way to prevent the spread of infections in hospitals. If you are a patient, don't be afraid to remind friends, family and health care providers to wash their hands before getting close to you.
Other steps health care workers can take include