Pneumonia is an inflammation and/or infection of the lungs that is caused by bacteria, virus, or other foreign substance in the lungs. Because the air sac in your lungs can fill with fluid, oxygen cannot get from the air sac to your bloodstream. Therefore, in extreme cases, cells cannot get their oxygen supply, and pneumonia can be deadly. It does affect all ages, especially the young, elderly, and those with a weakened immune system.

Bacterial pneumonia symptoms include high fever, shaking chills, chattering teeth, excessive sweating, severe chest pain, blueness of nail beds and lips, and a productive cough, producing rust-colored or green mucus. The patient's mental status may be confused or delirious. The onset can be sudden. Early treatment with antibiotics is very important. Your doctor may also recommend other supportive treatment such as proper diet, oxygen therapy, and rest. Pneumonia can be a complication of influenza. So, getting the pneumonia vaccination every 3-5 years, as well as the influenza vaccination every fall, are usually advised.

Viral pneumonia symptoms mimic influenza and include fever, dry cough, headache, muscle pain, weakness, and possible blueness of lips. The onset is usually more gradual than bacterial pneumonia, and this type of pneumonia is usually not as serious, except in the young, elderly, and those with suppressed immune systems. Treatment includes, rest, increased fluid intake, and possibly ant-viral medications. Remember, call your doctor immediately if you think you may have symptoms of bacterial or viral pneumonia.  

Walking pneumonia is a mild form of pneumonia caused by a bacteria caused Mycoplasma pneumoniae. It would not necessarily confine a person to bed or require a hospital stay like other pneumonias would. It is contagious and spread by contact to droplets expelled by sneezing and coughing of infected individuals. It usually affects ages 5-40, and is more common in late summer and fall.

Symptoms of walking pneumonia include a severe dry cough, headache, fever, chills, excessive sweating, chest pain, sore throat, nausea or vomiting fever, and sometimes, abdominal pain. The onset begins gradually over a period of 1 to 3 weeks and starts with a decrease in energy levels. Then, you will probably develop cold-like symptoms, but they will not go away after 2 weeks, and your cough will probably worsen, especially at night.

If untreated, it will usually resolve on its own in otherwise healthy individuals, but may last a couple of months. One should seek treatment if they have cold-like symptoms for a period of greater than a couple of weeks. Walking pneumonia can be resolved in a few weeks if treated with antibiotics. There is no vaccine for this type of pneumonia.

Susan Bailey, BS, RRT, and supervisor of Pulmonary Services at East Jefferson General Hospital can be contacted at 504-780-5701 with questions about this topic or other questions about pulmonary health.