Pneumonia is the inflammation of tissue in one or both of your lungs and is usually caused by an infection from a bacterium or virus. Getting pneumonia advice quickly can save you from a serious illness. At Accident Advice Helpline we can offer legal advice if you think your illness was the fault of someone else. Call 0800 689 0500 any time of the day or night to speak to one of our friendly advisers.
How pneumonia is caught
In your lungs there are clusters of tiny air sacs. When pneumonia occurs these tiny sacs fill with fluid or become inflamed. The disease is normally caught by breathing in bacteria, viruses or other germs. If you are normally fit and healthy, a small number of germs usually won’t cause a problem, they become trapped in the sputum and are killed off by your immune system. However, these germs sometimes multiply and cause lung infections. This is more likely to happen if you are frail or elderly, already in poor health, if you have a chest disease or if you have a low immunity to infection.
Symptoms of pneumonia
Pneumonia symptoms include:
- Fever, a temperature of over 37.5°C (99.5°F)
- Breathing may become shallow and rapid and you may feel breathless, even when resting
- Rapid heartbeat
- Feeling generally unwell
- Loss of appetite
- Pain in the chest
- You may produce more sputum, which becomes yellow or green
Less common symptoms of pneumonia may include coughing up blood, headache, fatigue, nausea and vomiting, wheezing, pain in the joints and muscles and feeling confused and disorientated (particularly in the elderly).
Diagnosis of pneumonia
Your doctor will take your temperature and listen to your chest with a stethoscope to check for any crackling or rattling sounds. He or she may also listen to your chest by tapping it; if the lungs are filled with fluid they produce a different sound to normal, healthy lungs. Your doctor might also arrange sputum and blood tests. Analysing these samples can help identify the virus or bacterium causing the infection.
Treatment of pneumonia
Treatment with antibiotics is very effective and you can expect to recover fully. Symptoms should start to improve after three days. You might still feel tired for a while after the infection has cleared, but if the symptoms persist longer than three weeks you should go back to see your doctor again. Have plenty to drink to avoid becoming dehydrated. Take regular paracetamol to reduce any fever and headaches.
Preventing the spread of pneumonia
You can help prevent germs spreading to other people by practising good personal hygiene. Be sure to cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you sneeze or cough and dispose of the tissues straight away. Remember, germs can survive for several hours after they leave your mouth or nose. Regularly wash your hands to avoid transferring germs to anyone else or other objects and also use an antibiotic hand gel. Smoking, alcohol abuse and intravenous drug abuse can also increase your risk of developing pneumonia, as your lungs are less able to fight infection. Call us at Accident Advice Helpline on 0800 689 0500 for more detailed pneumonia advice.