Some illnesses only appear in certain seasons. For example, you are more likely to catch the viral flu in the winter months. However, summer is all about allergies, chicken pox, measles, and typhoid. Pneumonia is a disease that has no peak seasons, which means you can catch it at any time of the year.
Pneumonia is a fairly common disease that affects one or both lungs. It can be caused by many different types of germs. Infections transmitted by certain types of bacteria, viruses, and fungi can all cause pneumonia in humans.
The danger posed by pneumonia depends a lot on your age, medical history, lung health, and general health status. It can be mild in many people, yet life-threatening in some cases. In this article, we will explain pneumonia symptoms, causes, risk factors, and more importantly, when you should visit an urgent care center for treatment.
What is Pneumonia?
Pneumonia is an infection in your lung tissue. It is most commonly caused by certain bacteria. Common viruses like the flu can also cause pneumonia. When these bugs enter and attack your lungs, the body tries to fight them with inflammation.
This is a natural reaction. But in the lungs, inflammation creates fluid or pus that fills up your air sacs. As a result, you will often cough up phlegm in various colors ranging from white to yellow, or even brown/red.
Since it blocks your airways and lungs with phlegm, pneumonia can affect your ability to breathe properly. Pneumonia is not a separate disease in many instances – you can get it as a result of complications from the common cold or the flu.
How Do You Catch Pneumonia?
Pneumonia can be triggered whenever a disease-causing germ finds its way into your lungs. The germs that usually cause pneumonia are usually carried by air. When sick people sneeze or cough, the germs spread in the surrounding air and infect others.
This can happen anywhere, and at any time – while you’re out on a walk, sitting in a bus/metro/flight, or in any other public setting. Some factors can increase your risk of catching pneumonia, including:
- Inhaling polluted air or toxic fumes
- Smoking or heavy drinking
- Age – under 2 years and above 65
- A weakened immune system due to cancer treatment or certain diseases such as AIDS
- Staying in a hospital for other treatments
- Recent flu or cold infection
There are also some less-common ways in which you can get pneumonia. For instance, if you accidentally inhale food particles, drinks, or saliva into your lungs, in some cases this can lead to infection and pneumonia. This is called aspiration pneumonia.
The risk of this type of pneumonia is higher among people who cannot swallow food properly. Usually, this happens to people who suffer from brain injury or stroke, and those who consume heavy amounts of alcohol or drugs.
How to Identify Different Types of Pneumonia?
At least three different types of germs are known to cause pneumonia. While they have broadly the same symptoms, it is still important to identify which germ is causing your pneumonia. This will determine the type of urgent care treatment you need.
The most common way to catch pneumonia is through a bacterial infection. And most of the cases of bacterial pneumonia diagnosed are caused by the Streptococcus pneumoniae variety. Others like Mycoplasma pneumoniae and Chlamydophila pneumoniae cause less frequent and milder forms of bacterial pneumonia.
You can become infected with bacterial pneumonia on its own, or as a complication after the viral flu. Surgery patients and people with asthma or weak immune systems are more at risk of catching bacterial pneumonia. This type of pneumonia usually affects just one lung, a condition called lobar pneumonia.
Most flu viruses, including the COVID virus, can cause viral pneumonia in your lungs. In most cases, viral pneumonia symptoms are milder than those of bacterial pneumonia. You have a strong chance of quick recovery from the infection with proper treatment and care.
However, some viruses like COVID can cause serious complications, including severe tissue damage and lung abscess. As a result, your body will not get enough oxygen. This type of viral pneumonia affects both lungs. It can be potentially fatal, especially in older adults and people with other health problems like heart disease or asthma.
Generally, healthy individuals don’t often get fungal pneumonia. A healthy immune system usually prevents fungus from taking hold inside our lungs. But in people with weakened immune systems, fungi can cause deadly pneumonia. This type of pneumonia does not spread from person to person.
Fungal pneumonia is caused by three varieties of fungi in different parts of the United States. In Southern California and the Southwest, Coccidioidomycosis is common. Histoplasmosis is usually found in Ohio and Mississippi, while Cryptococcus is found all over the country in soil and bird droppings.
What Are the Early Signs of Pneumonia?
Depending on the type of infection, pneumonia symptoms can develop over the course of a few days or weeks. That said, if you have any of these symptoms in a mild form, you may be in the early stages of pneumonia:
- A dry cough where you don’t spit out any phlegm/mucus
- Mild fever
- Headaches, joint pain, and muscle aches
- A general sensation of being unwell or weak
It’s worth noting that these are very common symptoms in other diseases as well. Cold and flu infections often start with these same symptoms, so it can be difficult to identify pneumonia in its early stages.
Common Symptoms of Pneumonia
It’s much easier to detect and diagnose pneumonia once the symptoms become more severe. While they may vary to some degree from person to person, these are the most common symptoms you may experience when you have an infection in your lungs:
- A fever of at least 100.4F
- Chills and shivering
- A persistent dry cough that lasts all day
- A wet cough that brings up phlegm, often white, yellow, or green
- Difficulty breathing, often with wheezing sounds
- Shortness of breath, especially while walking or performing other physical activities
- Chest pain when coughing or during physical activity
- Headaches and body aches
- Fatigue and a general feeling of weakness
Symptoms of Pneumonia in Children, Seniors, and Those With a Weakened Immune System
People experience different symptoms depending on their age groups. In babies and small infants, pneumonia can sometimes show up with little to no advance warning. Some infants don’t show any symptoms in the early stages.
When the condition becomes more severe, the following symptoms of pneumonia can show up in infants:
Older adults over the age of 65 often experience fewer and milder symptoms than younger, healthier people. When your immune system is strong, it will put up more resistance to the infection. This will show up as severe symptoms of pneumonia in a young person.
As you grow older, your immune system becomes weaker and less able to put up a fight against infection. This is why older people often experience milder pneumonia symptoms. However, this also means they are at greater risk of an infection leading to issues with mental awareness, severe illness, or even death.
Signs It Is Time To Visit An Urgent Care Clinic For Pneumonia
If the person suffering from pneumonia belongs to any of the following high-risk groups, you should see a doctor for urgent care as soon as the symptoms of pneumonia begin:
- Seniors above the age of 65
- Infants under the age of 2
- People receiving cancer treatment (chemotherapy)
- People taking medicines that affect the immune system (like steroids)
- People with chronic health problems like diabetes, asthma, and heart disease
- People who have had an organ transplant
Even mild symptoms of pneumonia may lead to serious complications in these individuals. If you don’t belong to any risk groups or have an underlying health condition, you should still seek medical attention when you experience the following severe symptoms:
- Extreme difficulty breathing
- A stabbing chest pain
- A persistent high fever of at least 102F
- Constant shaking chills
- Persistent coughing, especially with thick pus/phlegm
- Lower than normal body temperature (in seniors above 65)
- A bluish color on lips and fingers (critical medical emergency)
What Does Urgent Care Treatment for Pneumonia Consist Of?
The treatments for pneumonia will vary depending on the germ causing the disease. First, the urgent care doctor with take the following steps to diagnose your condition:
- Check your medical history
- Order blood tests and sputum test
- Conduct a physical exam
- Order X-rays and CT scans
Once they identify the type of pneumonia, the doctors will suggest the appropriate treatment. This may include:
- Antibiotics for bacterial pneumococcal pneumonia
- Antivirals for a viral infection
- Steroids and other medication if the inflammation is severe
Home Treatment and Remedies for Pneumonia
In many cases of pneumonia in otherwise healthy people, urgent care doctors may prescribe rest and at-home management of symptoms. You can manage milder symptoms at home with the following steps:
- Drink plenty of fluids and warm beverages
- Take steam baths and use humidifiers
- Avoid smoking cigarettes if you are a smoker
- Take acetaminophen or aspirin to control fever (NEVER give aspirin to children younger than 16)
- Avoid taking cough syrups unless prescribed by your doctor
- Get plenty of rest and stay in bed
Visit Your Nearest UrgentMED Urgent Care Clinic Today
If your early pneumonia symptoms don’t improve or get worse, it is best to seek urgent medical assistance without delay.
To avoid the worsening of complications with pneumonia, visit your nearest UrgentMED urgent care clinic. We provide prompt, convenient, and high-quality urgent medical care at affordable rates in multiple locations around Los Angeles and the wider Southern California region.
We offer free parking, and no appointments are necessary. Just hop in and out on your lunch break if you have a busy work schedule or even visit after work hours or over the weekend. We also have an in-house lab, and we offer most common prescription medications onsite.
Get timely and effective treatment for pneumonia and numerous other common diseases or injuries (non-life threatening) from our dedicated and experienced medical professionals. Visit us today to receive best-in-class urgent care.