July 26, 2009

Do u know about Pneumonia?

What is pneumonia?

Pneumonia is a lung infection that can make you very sick. You may cough, run a fever, and have a hard time breathing. For most people, pneumonia can be treated at home. It often clears up in 2 to 3 weeks. But older adults, babies, and people with other diseases can become very ill. They may need to be in the hospital.

You can get pneumonia in your daily life, such as at school or work. This is called community-based pneumonia. You can also get it when you are in a hospital or nursing home. This is called hospital-based pneumonia. It may be more severe because you already are ill. This topic focuses on pneumonia you get in your daily life.

Illustration of the lungs

What causes pneumonia?

Germs called bacteria or viruses usually cause pneumonia.

Pneumonia usually starts when you breathe the germs into your lungs. You may be more likely to get the disease after having a cold or the flu. These illnesses make it hard for your lungs to fight infection, so it is easier to get pneumonia. Having a long-term, or chronic, disease like asthma, heart disease, cancer, or diabetes also makes you more likely to get pneumonia.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms of pneumonia caused by bacteria usually come on quickly. They may include:

  • Cough. You will likely cough up mucus (sputum) from your lungs. Mucus may be rusty or green or tinged with blood.
  • Fever.
  • Fast breathing and feeling short of breath.
  • Shaking and "teeth-chattering" chills. You may have this only one time or many times.
  • Chest pain that often feels worse when you cough or breathe in.
  • Fast heartbeat.
  • Feeling very tired or feeling very weak.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Diarrhea.

When you have mild symptoms, your doctor may call this "walking pneumonia."

Older adults may have different, fewer, or milder symptoms. They may not have a fever. Or they may have a cough but not bring up mucus. The main sign of pneumonia in older adults may be a change in how well they think. Confusion or delirium is common. Or, if they already have a lung disease, that disease may get worse.

Symptoms caused by viruses are the same as those caused by bacteria. But they may come on slowly and often are not as obvious or as bad.

How is pneumonia diagnosed?

Your doctor will ask you about your symptoms and do a physical exam. He or she may order a chest X-ray and a blood test. This is usually enough for your doctor to know if you have pneumonia. You may need more tests if you have bad symptoms, are an older adult, or have other health problems. In general, the sicker you are, the more tests you will have.

Your doctor may also test mucus from your lungs to find out what germ is causing your pneumonia. Finding the exact germ can help your doctor choose the best medicine for you.

How is it treated?

Your doctor will give you medicines called antibiotics. These almost always cure pneumonia caused by bacteria. You need to take all of your antibiotics so you get well. Do not stop taking them because you feel better. Take them exactly as your doctor tells you.

Pneumonia can make you feel very sick. But after you take antibiotics, you should start to feel much better. Call your doctor if you do not start to feel better after 2 to 3 days of antibiotics. Call your doctor right away if you feel worse.

There are things you can do to feel better during your treatment. Get plenty of rest and sleep, and drink lots of liquids. Do not smoke. If your cough keeps you awake at night, talk to your doctor about using cough medicine.

You may need to go to the hospital if you have bad symptoms, a weak immune system, or another serious illness.

Pneumonia caused by a virus usually cannot be treated with antibiotics. Home treatment, such as rest and taking care of your cough, is the only treatment.

How can you prevent pneumonia?

If you are older than 65, you smoke, or you have a heart or lung problem, you may want to get a pneumococcal vaccine. It may not keep you from getting pneumonia. But if you do get pneumonia, you probably will not be as sick.

You can also lower your chances of getting pneumonia by staying away from people who have the flu, colds, measles, or chickenpox. You may get pneumonia after you have one of these illnesses.

Home Treatment

Home treatment is important for recovery from pneumonia. The following measures can help you recover and avoid complications, such as further infection or a buildup of fluid in the space between the lung and chest wall (pleural effusion).

While you are at home:

  • Get plenty of rest and prevent dehydration by drinking plenty of fluids.
  • Take care of your cough if it is making it difficult for you to rest. A cough is one way your body gets rid of the infection, and you should not try to eliminate coughing unless it is severe enough to make breathing difficult, cause vomiting, or prevent rest.
  • Consider taking acetaminophen (such as Tylenol) or aspirin to help reduce fever and make you feel more comfortable. Do not give aspirin to anyone younger than 20 because of the risk of Reye's syndrome.

Do not give cough and cold medicines to a child younger than 2 unless your child’s doctor has told you to. If your child’s doctor tells you to give a medicine, be sure to follow what he or she tells you to do.

Always check whether any over-the-counter cough or cold medicines you are taking contain acetaminophen. If they do, make sure the acetaminophen you are taking in your cold medicine, plus any other acetaminophen you may be taking, is not higher than the daily recommended dose. Ask your doctor or pharmacist how much you can take every day.

Your doctor may want to see you after a week of treatment to make sure you are getting better. Be sure to contact your doctor if you do not feel better, your cough gets worse, you have shortness of breath or a fever, you feel weak, or you feel faint when you stand up.