You Have Pneumonia - What Does That Mean?

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Are you coughing, having trouble breathing and nursing a fever? With flu season quickly approaching, there is a chance you could develop pneumonia.

Don’t be alarmed, anyone can get pneumonia. Most recently, Hillary Clinton, the Democratic presidential nominee, was diagnosed.

Here’s what you need to know:

Pneumonia is a common lung infection caused by a virus -- flu, bacteria such as streptococcus or fungi, such as candida which is the cause of yeast infections. Pneumonia is often spread through coughing or sneezing.

Your nose and airways work 24/7 to filter germs out of the air you breathe. However, sometimes the germs that cause pneumonia can reach your lungs. The result triggers the lungs' air sacs, or alveoli, to become inflamed and fill up with fluid. This causes the symptoms of pneumonia such as a cough, fever, chills and trouble breathing.

Mild cases of bacterial and viral pneumonia, often called walking pneumonia, feature symptoms similar to the common cold. So, how do you tell the difference?

The primary difference between a cold and pneumonia is the cough. The cough with pneumonia is productive, meaning any mucus coughed up is typically greenish, yellow or bloody. With a cold, the cough doesn't produce mucus or has mucus that is clear to white. The only definitive way to diagnose pneumonia is through a positive chest X-ray.

Additional common symptoms of pneumonia are:

  • Fever, which may be mild or high
  • Shaking or chills
  • Shortness of breath

Many treatments for pneumonia are available and depend on the cause of your pneumonia, how severe your symptoms are, your age and overall health. Most people can be treated at home by getting lots of rest, drinking plenty of fluids and controlling fever with aspirin, ibuprofen or acetaminophen. Most healthy people recover from pneumonia in 1 to 3 weeks, but pneumonia can be life-threatening.

You can reduce your risk of getting pneumonia by following a few simple steps, such as:

  • Don’t wait, vaccinate! Get a flu shot every year to prevent seasonal influenza which is a common cause of pneumonia. Also, be sure to get age appropriate pneumonia shots and make sure children are immunized
  • Wash your hands frequently, especially after blowing your nose, going to the bathroom and before eating or preparing foods.
  • Don’t smoke. Tobacco damages your lungs ability to fight off infection and smokers have been found to be at higher risk of getting pneumonia.

Be sure to contact a healthcare professional if you have questions regarding pneumonia or if you are experiencing the symptoms mentioned above.

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