Like many people, you may have developed an annoying cough this winter. In most cases, the cause of a cough is nothing more than the common cold or flu. However, that lingering cough could also be a sign of pneumonia. Because pneumonia has many symptoms in common with less serious illnesses, it can be difficult to diagnose and treat early. Many people delay seeking medical attention because they think their illness will go away with home treatment.
What is Pneumonia?
Pneumonia is a respiratory infection that can affect one or both lungs. It is most often caused by bacteria, but may be caused by a virus such as the flu, a fungus or other foreign matter that enters the lungs. The tiny air sacs in the lungs fill with fluid, resulting in coughing and other respiratory problems. Symptoms can develop quickly and vary from mild to severe, depending on the cause of the infection and the person’s age and overall health.
Common symptoms of pneumonia include cough, congestion, fever, chills, fatigue and a general feeling of discomfort. Pneumonia tends to be more serious for older adults, infants and young children, those with chronic health problems and those with compromised immune systems.
Symptoms of Pneumonia
How can you tell if you have a cold, or if it’s a more serious pneumonia infection? One of the biggest indicators is duration. Cold and flu viruses tend to last seven to 10 days, so you should begin to improve after this time period. If you improve but suddenly get worse, or if your symptoms don’t improve at all, you should seek help at your nearest RediClinic.
In addition, certain symptoms are more serious and should prompt you to seek emergency medical attention, even if you have been sick for less than 10 days.
- Shortness of breath
- Rapid heart rate
- Chest pain
Pneumonia Can be Prevented
Those who are at greatest risk of contracting pneumonia should be immunized against the disease with pneumonia vaccines. Because the flu virus can often lead to viral pneumonia, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that adults 65 and older receive the seasonal flu shot at the same time as pneumonia vaccine.