Pneumonia is a common lung infection that can be serious if left untreated. Be sure to speak with your primary care provider if you believe you or your child could have pneumonia.

What is pneumonia?

Pneumonia is a complicated lung infection that is caused by exposure to viruses, bacteria, or fungi. Bacteria are the most common cause for adults, and viruses are the most common cause in small children.

Pneumonia causes swelling, inflammation, and fluid buildup in the alveoli (lung air sacs).  This causes pain, cough, and fever.

Pneumonia Risk Factors

Pneumonia risk factors

Pneumonia can affect both adults and children. Some people are at higher risk of pneumonia, including older adults, young children and babies, and people with chronic lung conditions such as asthma.

Smoking is a risk factor for pneumonia and other lung infections.

Other risk factors include having:

  • Neurological conditions that affect swallowing (dementia or Parkinson’s disease)

  • COPD, cystic fibrosis or other long-term lung conditions

  • Heart disease, diabetes or other serious health conditions

  • Recent cold, flu or lung infection

  • Recent surgery or trauma

  • Weak immune system

Certain people at higher risk may be advised by their provider to have a pneumonia shot. Talk to your provider to find out if you need to be vaccinated against pneumonia.

Pneumonia Symptoms

Symptoms can come quickly after someone is exposed to pneumonia

. Symptoms include:

  • Appetite loss

  • Chills

  • Coughing

  • Confusion

  • Diarrhea

  • Fatigue

  • Fever

  • Headaches

  • Mucus

  • Pain in the chest

  • Shortness of breath

  • Sweating

Pneumonia Diagnosis

Screening and diagnosing pneumonia

The screening process for pneumonia includes a physical exam of the patient's symptoms. Blood tests, X-rays and CT scans, and bronchoscopies may help to diagnose pneumonia.

Be sure to tell your doctor about all of your symptoms and whether you have been around anyone who has had pneumonia.


Pneumonia Treatments

Treating pneumonia

Depending on the type of pneumonia you have, your provider may recommend the following:

  • Antibiotics

  • Fluids

  • Pain medications including Nonsteroidal Ant-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)

  • Oxygen therapy

  • Rest

Coughing is one way your body helps to get rid of pneumonia. Be sure to talk with your doctor before taking any cough medicine.  Over the counter cough and cold medications are not safe for children under 2—talk to your doctor about ways to treat cough and other symptoms in small children.