A cough. Fever. Chills. When you think about it, those symptoms would fit the bill for a number of illnesses. But one of the more serious illnesses that produce these symptoms, and more is pneumonia. Pneumonia is a common lung infection that can be mild, but also life-threatening. Obviously, the sooner you get treatment, the better. But first – how do you know if you have it, and what are the warning signs?
What is Pneumonia and What Causes It?
Pneumonia is caused by a number of factors, including a virus, bacteria, or fungi, along with environmental factors – such as inhaling various chemicals and environmental agents. But viruses or bacteria are the biggest culprits. Pneumonia can infect one or both of your lungs, and it causes the air sacs of the lungs – or alveoli, to fill up with fluid or pus. Viruses cause about one-third of pneumonia cases in the United States. Influenza, which is more commonly called the flu virus, is a common cause of viral pneumonia in adults.
How Is Pneumonia Spread?
Depending on the type, pneumonia can be contagious. As we mentioned earlier, bacteria and viruses, which are contagious, cause most cases of pneumonia. These types of pneumonia can easily spread from one person to the next, mostly through a cough or a sneeze. A doctor can tell you how long you’re contagious.
Pneumonia Signs and Symptoms
You may miss the early warning signs of pneumonia. That’s because the infection typically starts with a simple cold. It can also start with upper respiratory infections such as a sore throat, nasal congestion, and cough. And here is where it makes a turn.
You will start to get a high fever and experience shaking chills, along with a cough that produces greenish or yellowish thick mucus or phlegm, which may contain blood. You may also then experience a headache and muscle aches, chest pain, and shortness of breath. It will also zap you of your energy- causing fatigue and weakness and the loss of appetite. Older people may experience confusion.
You may have also heard the phrase walking pneumonia. This milder case of pneumonia feels more like a cold and doesn’t typically require bed rest or hospitalization. It is usually treated with over-the-counter medicines. It mostly impacts children 5-years-old and older.
Pneumonia Risk Factors
While pneumonia can hit anyone, some people are more at risk than others. Here are some of the risk factors:
- Over age 65 and under age 2
- Weakened immune system
- Chronic lung disease
If you suspect you or someone you know has pneumonia, get to urgent care right away. After a physical exam, the doctor will order an X-ray, which can reveal pneumonia. You may also need some lab work to examine your sputum, which is a mixture of your mucus and saliva. This will help doctors determine the source of your illness.
Treatments for Pneumonia
Pneumonia treatments vary, depending on the cause of your pneumonia. But the first thing you should do is drink plenty of fluids, which is crucial to flush out toxins. Your doctor will prescribe antibiotics. You can also take cough medicine and fever reducers/pain relievers. Also, get lots of bed rest. It’s important for you to be under the care of a doctor.
Visit the affordable clinics that make up the UrgentMED network, where you can get a diagnosis, undergo testing, and pick up your prescriptions, along with over-the-counter medicines, at our in-house pharmacy. We provide fast and affordable emergency care, and with 15 locations, we’re conveniently located near you. UrgentMED is the largest comprehensive urgent care network in Southern California. If you or a loved one has the warning signs of pneumonia, UrgentMED can help. Stop by one of our walk-in clinics today. We look forward to getting you back on a healthy track.