Common respiratory illnesses: Pneumonia

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Pneumonia involves swelling of the tissues in one or both lungs. It is usually instigated by a bacterial infection. The cluster of tiny air sacs at the end of the breathing tubes in the lungs can end up inflamed and filled with fluid.

What are the indications?

The signs and symptoms of pneumonia can develop abruptly over 24-48 hours or can occur in a steady manner over several days.

The usual indications of pneumonia include the following:

  • Cough that can be dry or produce thick green, yellow, brown or blood-streaked mucus
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Fever
  • Appetite loss
    Cough that can be dry or produce thick green, yellow, brown or blood-streaked mucus
  • Feeling generally sick
  • Chest pain that worsens while coughing or breathing
  • Sweating and shivering

Some of the uncommon symptoms include the following:

  • Fatigue
  • Coughing up blood
  • Headache
  • Wheezing
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Muscle and joint pain
  • Confusion and disorientation among the elderly

When to consult a doctor

A doctor should be consulted if the individual feels sick and have the common symptoms stated above. Seek immediate medical care if the symptoms are severe such as chest pain, rapid breathing or confusion.

Who are at risk?

The following groups face a higher risk for developing pneumonia.

  • Elderly
  • Infants and young children
  • Individuals who smoke
  • Individuals who have underlying health conditions such as cystic fibrosis, asthma or kidney, heart or liver conditions
  • Individuals who have a weakened immune system brought about by a recent condition, the flu, HIV or AIDS, under chemotherapy or using medications after an organ transplant


In mild cases of pneumonia, they can be managed at home by getting enough rest, antibiotics or increased intake of fluids.

If an individual does not have other health issues, response to treatment is rapid and able to recover soon, but the cough might last for some time. Since pneumonia is not passed from one individual to another, it is safe to be around others.

Nevertheless, individuals who have a weakened immune system must avoid close contact with an individual with pneumonia until he/she starts to get better.

Among those who are included in the high-risk groups, the condition can be severe and might necessitate treatment in a hospital. Remember that this can lead to serious complications where some cases can be deadly depending on the age and health of the individual.


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