Pneumonia affects more than one million patients each year. Ranging in severity from mild to life-threatening, the condition can affect anyone at any time, though it is most serious for infants, young children, adults over the age of 65 and people with weakened immune systems or underlying health conditions.
Pneumonia results from an infection, either bacterial, viral or fungal in origin, which inflames the air sacs in one or both of the lungs. The infection can cause fluid or pus to build up in the air sacs, resulting in cough with phlegm and difficulty breathing.
Pfizer’s chief medical officer, Dr. Freda Lewis-Hall, shares the risk factors and symptoms of pneumonia, and what you can do to prevent an infection.
Symptoms can vary from mild to severe depending on your age, overall health, and the type of germ causing the infection. Mild symptoms can be similar to a cold or the flu, though they last longer.
Common signs of pneumonia include:
According to the Mayo Clinic, you should see your doctor if you are experiencing difficulty breathing, chest pain, a persistent fever of 102 F or higher, or are coughing up pus.
Community-acquired pneumonia can generally be treated at home with medication, including antibiotics or antivirals depending on the germ, fever reducers and cough suppressants. Hospitalization may be required for more severe cases and for patients older than 65 or younger than 3 months of age.
Dr. Lewis-Hall and ER physician Dr. Travis Stork emphasize the importance of practicing good hygiene, staying rested and fit, and getting regular immunizations, when applicable, to prevent a pneumonia infection.
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