Early symptoms of pneumonia

symptoms of pneumonia

The early symptoms of pneumonia may not be severe and could resemble those of a cold or flu, albeit longer-lasting. The actual severity of the symptoms depends on the germ that causes the infection as well as the patient’s age and general health. For instance, children under 2 years of age and adults over 65 are the two groups that are at the highest risk of developing pneumonia. This is because their bodies have a more difficult time fighting off the infection. Additionally, people with asthma, COPD, heart disease and other chronic conditions; with weakened of suppressed immune systems; who smoke; or who are on a ventilator at a hospital are more prone to pneumonia.

The signs of pneumonia include:

·         Fever.

·         Sweating.

·         Shaking chills.

·         Lower than normal body temperature.

·         Cough which may be accompanied by phlegm.

·         Chest pain when breathing deeply or coughing.

·         Shortness of breath.

·         Fatigue.

·         Muscle pain.

·         Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea.

·         Headache.

Pneumonia can be of bacterial, viral, or fungal origin and can be acquired in a variety of settings and environments, including the one where you’d think you’d be safer; a hospital.

Types of pneumonia

·         Community-acquired

The most common type, it occurs outside of healthcare settings, especially in winter. It can be caused by bacteria (Streptococcus pneumoniae), bacteria-like organisms (Mycoplasma pneumoniae), viruses (the same that cause colds and the flu), and fungi (found in soil and bird droppings).

·         Hospital-acquired

It affects people 48 hours or more after they have been admitted to a hospital, especially if they are on a ventilator. It is potentially more serious than community-acquired pneumonia because hospital germs are more resistant to antibiotics, and also because the patient is already sick with something else.

·         Healthcare-related

It occurs in long-term care facilities, nursing homes, kidney dialysis centers, and outpatient clinics.

·         Aspiration

It occurs when food, drink, vomit, or saliva are inhaled from the mouth and into the lungs as a result of a disturbance in the normal gag reflex, e.g. brain injury, swallowing difficulties, or excessive intake of alcohol or drugs.

·         Atypical

Cause by bacteria such as Legionella pneumophila, mycoplasma pneumonia, and Chlamydophila pneumonia and passed from person to person.

As already mentioned, the early symptoms of pneumonia can be easily confused with those of a cold or the flu. Therefore, many patients only realize there is something wrong when the symptoms have lasted much longer than usual. This is problematic in the sense that without treatment with medication – which can be successfully accomplished – pneumonia can lead to serious complications such as:

·         Bacteremia. Bacteria in the bloodstream that can spread infection to other organs and cause organ failure.

·         Lung abscess. A cavity in the lung that requires treatment ranging from antibiotics to surgery or drainage with a needle or tube.

·         Pleural effusion. Fluid buildup in the space between the external tissue layers that line the lungs and the chest cavity. May also require surgery or drainage if the fluid becomes infected.

·         Breathing difficulties. Severe pneumonia or pneumonia combined with chronic underlying lung conditions can lead to breathing difficulties and the use of a mechanical ventilator while the lung heals.

People who experience difficulty breathing, chest pain, lingering fever of 102 F or higher, or nagging cough – in particular if coughing up pus – should see a doctor, especially if they are younger than 2 or older than 65. The doctor will compile a medical history, including recent travels, hobbies, exposure to animals, exposure to sick people, past and present medical conditions, any medications the patient takes, and whether the patient smokes or has had flu or pneumonia vaccinations. The physician will also use a stethoscope to auscultate the lungs for crackling, buzzing, wheezing and rumbling sounds.

Additional tests used to diagnose pneumonia are:



·         Chest x-ray

Can confirm pneumonia and determine its extent and location but not establish the germ that causes the infection.

·         Blood tests

A count of white blood cells can confirm a bacterial infection, and a blood culture can determine if the infection has spread to the bloodstream.

·         Sputum test

A sample of lung fluid collected after a deep cough can help determine which germ is causing the infection.

·         Pulse oximetry

Measures the level of oxygen in the blood.

·         Pleural fluid culture

A fluid sample from the pleural area is analyzed to determine the type of infection.

·         Bronchoscopy


·         Chest CT scan



The treatment for pneumonia is based on the source of the infection. Thus, antibiotics are prescribed for bacterial pneumonia, and antiviral drugs for viral pneumonia. Additionally, ibuprofen may be administered to lower fever and cough medicine to relieve cough. However, the patient may need to be hospitalized if

·         The patient is older than 65;

·         Becomes confused about time, people, or place;

·         Nausea and vomiting prevents them from keeping oral antibiotics down;

·         His or her blood pressure drops;

·         Experience rapid breathing;

·         Their temperature is below normal;


·         The patient is younger than 3 months;

·         Is excessively sleepy;

·         Has difficulty breathing;

·         Has low blood oxygen levels;

·         Appears dehydrated;

·         Has a lower than normal temperature.

Vaccination is the best method for the prevention of pneumonia. Though vaccines do not prevent all cases of infection, people who get pneumonia despite being vaccinated usually experience milder symptoms, short-lived infections, and fewer complications. Vaccines that can help prevent pneumonia include:

·         Pneumococcal Pneumonia

Good for 5 years, recommended for children younger than 5 y/o; children aged 5 to 18 with heart or lung disease, cancer, and other conditions; and adults aged 65 or older; as well as for people with chronic conditions, long-term health problems, and weakened immune systems; and smokers.

·         Influenza

Good for 1 year, usually administered before the peak of flu season, between October and November.

·         HiB

Given to children younger than 5 y/o to prevent pneumonia and meningitis caused by haemophilus influenza type B.

Other means of preventing pneumonia are practicing good hygiene, not smoking, eating a healthy diet, exercising moderately, and getting enough rest. 

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Early symptoms of flu