Pneumonia is an infection of the lung that is caused by either a bacteria, virus or fungus. More than one million people were hospitalized in the United States in 2009 with pneumonia, with more than 50,000 fatalities. Pneumonia affects people of all ages but tends to focus on the following groups:

  • Children under 5 years of age
  • Adults 65 years of age and older
  • People with compromised immune systems
  • Cigarette smokers
  • Asthmatics

Causes of Pneumonia

Pneumonia is an infection caused by a virus, bacteria or fungus and can be mild or very severe.

Symptoms of Pneumonia

Symptoms of pneumonia can vary depending on the cause of the disease. They may be similar to symptoms of a cold or the flu, and can include:

  • High fever
  • Chills
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Cough that produces mucus
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fingernails and lips that are either blue or gray
  • Sore throat
  • Headache
  • Rash

Diagnosis of Pneumonia

A diagnosis of pneumonia may be made by the physician after the following:

  • Physical examination
  • Chest X-ray
  • Blood tests
  • A bacterial culture of the mucus
  • Pulse oximetry
  • Bronchoscopy

Treatment of Pneumonia

Treatment of pneumonia depends on the cause of the infection, severity of the illness and the overall health of the patient. Treatment options may include the following:

  • Rest
  • Antibiotics
  • Antifungal medication
  • Drinking an increased amount of fluids
  • Over-the-counter fever relief
  • Supplemental oxygen

Do not take cough medicines without first consulting with the doctor. These medications may make it harder for the body to cough up the extra mucus.

It is important to see a physician to receive proper treatment for pneumonia. Prompt professional attention will help to prevent complications and the possible spread of the disease to others.

Prevention of Pneumonia

Preventing pneumonia is possible. The following methods may help to prevent pneumonia:

  • Annual flu shot
  • Frequent washing of hands
  • Vaccination for pneumococcal pneumonia

Additional Resources