Knowing the Signs of Pneumonia

Pneumonia Awareness Month is in November. Pneumonia is an infection that inflames the air sacs in one or both lungs. The air sacs may fill with fluid or pus (purulent material), causing cough with phlegm or pus, fever, chills, and difficulty breathing. A variety of organisms, including bacteria, viruses and fungi, can cause pneumonia. Pneumonia can range in seriousness from mild to life-threatening. It is most serious for infants and young children, people older than age 65, and people with health problems or weakened immune systems. The signs and symptoms of pneumonia vary from mild to severe, depending on factors such as the type of germ causing the infection, and your age and overall health. Mild signs and symptoms often are similar to those of a cold or flu, but they last longer. Signs and symptoms of pneumonia may include:

Fever, sweating and shaking chills
Cough, which may produce phlegm
Chest pain when you breathe or cough
Shortness of breath
Fatigue
Nausea, vomiting or diarrhea

Newborns and infants may not show any sign of the infection. Or they may vomit, have a fever and cough, appear restless or tired and without energy, or have difficulty breathing and eating. People older than age 65 and people in poor health or with a weakened immune system may have a lower than normal body temperature. Older people who have pneumonia sometimes have sudden changes in mental awareness. Many germs can cause pneumonia. The most common are bacteria and viruses in the air we breathe. Your body usually prevents these germs from infecting your lungs. But sometimes these germs can overpower your immune system, even if your health is generally good. Pneumonia is classified according to the types of germs that cause it and where you got the infection. If you have any of these symptoms, be sure to contact your physician.