Pneumonia isn’t just the cold.
You aren’t more likely to catch the virus if you go outside during the winter without a coat.
People 65 years or older aren’t the only ones who can catch pneumonia.
The myths about pneumonia have been debunked, but one fact is important. Pneumonia sends about one million Americans to the hospital and 50,000 deaths every year. Here’s what you do need to know about the deadly virus:
What is pneumonia?
A bacteria gets into the lungs, causing the air sacs to fill with pus and get inflamed. The body then struggles to absorb and exchange oxygen.
It seems simple, but there are many different ways and places to catch pneumonia.
Walking pneumonia is a milder case and may not even need hospitalization. The symptoms allow for a person to stay active and continue throughout their day.
Labar pneumonia is limited just one of the lungs. But, it can still cause debilitating symptoms.
Double pneumonia sounds worse because it is worse. The infections spreads to both lungs and is life threatening if untreated.
Although there many different kinds of pneumonia, the symptoms stay fairly consistent:
- Sweating or clammy skin
- Cough that produces green, yellow or bloody mucus
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pains that are worse during a deep breath
- Lack of energy and appetite
- Mild to high-grade fever
What causes pneumonia?
The different kinds of pneumonia often depend on which bacteria infects a person:
- Streptococcus pneumoniae – The most common culprit for pneumonia. This bacteria is highly contagious. It enters the body through the nose or an open wound. People 65 years or older or two years and younger are at most risk for Streptococcus pneumoniae.
- Mycoplasma pneumonia – This is most often the cause of walking or atypical pneumonia. MP is commonly spread in crowded areas like schools and nursing homes. Spread through the transfer of fluids, the moisture from a sneeze or cough is often spreads the infection.
- Haemophilus influenzae – Responsible for more than pneumonia, this bacteria causes bacteremia and meningitis. Haemophilus influenzae lives in the nose and throat but can even stay dormant in the body for years. Unimmunized children younger than four are most at risk for this virus.
- Klebsiella pneumoniae – K. pneumoniae lives in the intestines. It is usually only dangerous when spreading to another organ. This bacteria is not airborne and is only contagious through personal contact, sometimes via contaminated medical equipment. People with weakened immune systems are more likely to catch K. pneumoniae.
- Staphylococcus aureus – Otherwise known as MRSA. It is often contracted as a bacterial infection in a hospital. MRSA is resistant to methicillin and many of the antibiotics that fight pneumonia. Hospital-acquired pneumonia (HAP) is considered more severe and lethal.
- Pseudomonas aeruginosa – This is the most common HAP. Like all other strains of pneumonia from the hospital, this virus is dangerous for its resistance to many different antibiotics.
How is pneumonia treated?
Patients that are not hospitalized for pneumonia will often receive oral antibiotics. Because Community-Acquired pneumonia (CAP) is often less severe, milder antibiotics are used to combat the virus. Amoxicillin and other penicillin-based drugs are most common.
When hospitalized, treatment for pneumonia depends on which bacteria caused the infection.
To treat CAP, doctors will initially administer an IV with a common antibiotic like cefotaxime. An oral antibiotic is then prescribed after the symptoms become less severe.
Hospital-acquired pneumonia is more difficult to treat.
Because an HAP is resistant to many antibiotics that get rid of the virus, a doctor has to find the right medicine. A doctor has to use a somewhat wait-and-see approach to find an antibiotic that works.
It may seem counterintuitive for a lung disease, but cough medicine is often not used to treat pneumonia. Coughing is one of the best ways to get rid of infected mucus that lies in your lungs.
How to prevent pneumonia?
Two different vaccines can prevent pneumonia.
The PCV13 vaccine is recommended for infants, adults over 65 and adults over 19-years-old with weakened immune systems. The vaccine PPSV23 should be used for children older than 2, adults older than 65 and adults who smoke or have asthma.
These provide protection against not just pneumonia, but also meningitis and bloodstream infections.
Vaccination is key to staying safe from pneumonia. But, there are many other precautions to avoid the virus.
Stay away from those with the cold, flu or any other kind of infection. If you are heading to the hospital, wash your hands frequently.
Tobacco prevents your lungs from fighting infection. This leaves smokers some of the most likely to catch pneumonia. Cut down on smoking or quit altogether to greatly reduce your risk of pneumonia.
Are you up to date on your pneumonia vaccines? If not, call Passport Health at or schedule an appointment online.