Pneumonia: Signs & Treatment

Man couching from sickness

If you have a bad cold or the flu, you need to take care of yourself to prevent your illness from developing into pneumonia. Pneumonia is an infection of the lungs that, if left untreated, can lead to serious complications and, in certain circumstances, death.

You can get pneumonia through exposure to bacteria or viruses at school or work (community-associated pneumonia), or you can get it when you are in a hospital or nursing home (healthcare-associated pneumonia). Healthcare-associated pneumonia may be more severe because you are already ill. Additionally, having a long-term chronic disease like asthma, heart disease, diabetes or cancer makes you more likely to get pneumonia, and people that smoke are more likely to catch pneumonia.

Symptoms of Pneumonia

The good news is that for most people, pneumonia can be treated at home. With their doctor’s advice and possible prescription medication, it will usually clear up in 2 to 3 weeks. However, older adults, infants and people with other illnesses can become very sick and need to seek professional medical treatment immediately. Major symptoms include cough, fever and difficulty breathing.

When the symptoms of pneumonia are caused by bacteria, they usually come on quickly and may include cough; fever, accompanied by shaking and teeth-chattering chills; fast heartbeat; extreme fatigue; nausea and vomiting; and diarrhea. When the symptoms are caused by a virus, they are generally the same as those caused by bacteria, but they may come on slowly and often are not as obvious or as severe.

Older adults may have milder symptoms and may not present a fever. This milder version is called “walking pneumonia” and often presents as a cough that does not bring up mucus, but can include confusion or delirium.

Prevention and Treatment

Many of the precursor infections that cause pneumonia can often be prevented with vaccines. Once an infection presents, however, they can be treated with antibiotics or antiviral drugs like Tamiflu. Seek your doctor’s advice since immediate action is recommended at the first sign of symptoms.

You can also help prevent developing pneumonia and other respiratory infections by following good hygiene practices, such as frequently washing your hands and disinfecting frequently-touched surfaces around your home, in the office and at school, especially in shared areas like the bathroom, kitchen and doorknobs.

If you develop cold or flu-like symptoms, seek medical treatment as soon as possible, especially if you have other diseases and illnesses. There are options available to you if you cannot get to the doctor such as urgent care clinics or clinics within many pharmacies.

In conjunction with help from your medical professional, here are some tips to assist your recovery from pneumonia:

  • Drink plenty of fluids to help loosen secretions and bring up phlegm.
  • Get lots of rest and avoid any strenuous activity.
  • Control your fever with acetaminophen, aspirin or anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen or naproxen. DO NOT give aspirin to children. Certain over-the-counter cough medications may make it harder for your body to cough up mucus. Seek your doctor’s advice before taking or administering any over-the-counter medications.

Doctors have several prescription drug treatment options available to treat not only the infection itself but the symptoms as well. Our prescription drug discount card, accepted at 57,000 pharmacies nationwide, can help save you money on the cost of your prescriptions. The card is available to everyone, and there are no exclusions, requirements or paperwork. Simply download a card to print, or we can text or email a card to you. Use our pharmacy locator and drug-pricing tool to find the best discounts near you.

Be aware of your health, and seek out your medical professional for advice about your particular signs and symptoms and medical history to get ahead of any potential illness.

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