Updated 12 October 2022 | Approved By Dr. Umberto Russo
What is Pneumonia?Pneumonia is a lung condition caused by a bacterial, viral or fungal infection. Usually, air will travel to the lungs before inflating the air sacs known as the alveoli. Pneumonia leads to inflammation and fluid build-up in these areas, which can cause breathing difficulties. Pneumonia can become a dangerous lung condition, especially for those who are unwell and/or elderly. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, there were more than 2000 people in Australia who died after being diagnosed with this condition . There are many reasons for contracting pneumonia. Your GP can help diagnose what type of pneumonia you may have and what treatment may help. As a result, examples of pneumonia conditions include:
- Fungal pneumonia
- Bacterial pneumonia
- Viral pneumonia
- Walking pneumonia
- Community-Acquired pneumonia
- Aspiration pneumonia
Pneumonia SymptomsSymptoms and signs of pneumonia can be similar to the cold and flu. However, those with pneumonia may notice the following common symptoms not improve or progressively worsen, including:
- A dry or wet cough
- Difficulty breathing
- Fever or temperature above 38℃
- Loss of appetite
- Feeling tired and weak
- Having blue-coloured lips and fingertips is caused by cyanosis (reduced oxygen in the bloodstream)
- Being confused, especially in the elderly
- Body aches and pains
- Feeling nauseous
- Coughing up phlegm and/or blood
Pneumonia CausesMost causes of pneumonia seen by 24-7Medcare GPs are community-acquired. Community-acquired pneumonia describes cases outside of a hospital and/or healthcare setting. Infections can also occur in a hospital setting or on a ventilator.
Community-Acquired PneumoniaThere are numerous causes of community-acquired pneumonia, including bacterial, fungal and viral infections. Common culprits include :
- Streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria
- Haemophilus influenzae bacteria
- Moraxella catarrhalis bacteria
- Respiratory syncytial virus
- Parainfluenza virus
Hospital-Acquired and Ventilator-Associated PneumoniaGiven the overlap in hospital and ventilator environments, there are similar causes of pneumonia in these settings. Most cases are caused by bacterial infections, such as Escherichia coli (E.Coli) and Staphylococcus aureus . Viral and fungal infections are more likely to affect those who are immunocompromised or very sick.
Is Pneumonia Contagious?Yes. Bacteria and viruses that can cause pneumonia can spread person-to-person. Although, not everybody will develop pneumonia when infected by the same germs. There are several ways these germs can spread, including blood, sharing food and breathing in infected air droplets. Some types of pneumonia are not or rare contagious, including fungal infections and aspiration pneumonia (caused by food and/or water entering the lungs).
Pneumonia Diagnosis And TestsIf you suspect that you may have pneumonia, your doctor will be able to help you with your diagnosis and refer for any testing. Before diagnosis, your doctor may ask several relevant questions about your situation, including symptoms and past medical history. Below is a list of potential tests that may also be suggested.
- Physical examination of the lungs may be performed by your doctor, including using a stethoscope to listen to the sounds of your lungs.
- A chest x-ray takes a detailed image of the lungs to provide information about whether there could be any signs of infection.
- Blood tests may be performed to identify whether an infection may be the source of your symptoms.
- A sputum culture analyses the mucus (a sticky fluid) from your lungs to determine to look for bacteria that may have caused your infection.
- Your doctor may also recommend bronchoscopy. This type of endoscopy procedure can take live images inside your lunge.
Pneumonia TreatmentTreatment for pneumonia will vary depending on the type of infection and its severity. The aim of the treatments will be to stop the progression of the condition and help manage the symptoms.
MedicationsYour doctor may prescribe medications to help treat pneumonia. After a proper assessment, your doctor will better understand what medications may be effective. Antibiotics are prescribed to treat bacterial infections, while anti-viral and anti-fungal drugs are prescribed for viral and fungal infections. Other medications may also help control symptoms, such as paracetamol.
Rest and RecoveryTo allow the body to recover, your doctor may advise you to rest and reduce your activities. Additionally, it’s essential to keep drinking water and fluids during this period.
Hospital AdmissionThose with severe symptoms or from a vulnerable background (e.g. young children, elderly, sick) may be advised to undergo hospital admission. Regular care and treatment from medical staff, such as doctors, nurses and physiotherapists, may be required for recovery.
Pneumococcal VaccineYour doctor may recommend taking the pneumococcal vaccine to help protect against pneumonia. Generally, it is recommended for infants/children, non-Indigenous adults over 70, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults over 50 years and those at a higher risk of catching this condition. Please visit the Australian Government Immunisation Handbook for more information about the vaccine.
RecoveryRecovery will vary depending on the health of the individual affected. Healthy individuals who catch pneumonia in the community will have a 99% survival rate. Although those who developed this condition during their intensive care unit (ICU) stay may only have a 50% survival rate . Symptoms will generally improve with treatment. However, after treatment, some people may have some lingering issues, such as a dry cough or tiredness. Although, these symptoms should slowly settle over time.
ComplicationsIf left untreated or mismanaged, complications of pneumonia can include:
- Lung failure
- Sepsis (blood infection)
- Lung abscess
- Pericarditis (inflammation and swelling around the heart)
- Organ failure
Receiving quality care from highly experienced doctors is essential for a prompt diagnosis and receiving the correct medical treatment. With 24-7 MedCare, you can experience telemedicine from the convenience of your own home. Our friendly online doctors will be available 24/7 for a consultation, anytime and anywhere in Australia.
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- Jain V, Vashisht R, Yilmaz G, et al. Pneumonia Pathology. [Updated 2022 Apr 12]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK526116/