While cold and flu season is widely discussed, pneumonia season is quickly gaining the spotlight.
One in 20 dies from the lung disease each year, and it's what's going around this week.
What is pneumonia?
Pneumonia is a lung infection that can cause coughing, fever, and trouble breathing. The lung infection is usually caused by bacteria, but it can also be caused by viruses or other germs.
Doctors use the term "community-acquired" when a person catches an infection in their daily life, and not from being in the hospital. Doctors call it "hospital-acquired" when people catch an infection from being in the hospital.
Community-acquired pneumonia can be mild or severe. A mild infection is sometimes called "walking pneumonia." That's because most people with walking pneumonia are not very sick and can still walk around and do their daily activities.
What are the symptoms of community-acquired pneumonia?
Common symptoms include:
Should I see a doctor or nurse?
Yes. If you have the symptoms listed above, see a doctor or nurse as soon as possible.
Will I need tests?
Probably. Your doctor or nurse will ask about your symptoms and do an exam. He or she will probably do a chest X-ray to look for an infection in your lungs.
Depending on your individual situation, you might need other tests. These can include blood tests or lab tests on a sample of mucus that you cough up.
How is community-acquired pneumonia treated?
Doctors treat community-acquired pneumonia with antibiotic medicines. These medicines kill the germs that are causing the infection. Most people can take antibiotic pills at home, but some people need to be treated in the hospital. People who are treated in the hospital get antibiotics into their vein through a tube called an "IV."
Some people also get extra oxygen to help them breathe more easily.
Most people start to feel better within 3 to 5 days of taking their medicine. But a cough from pneumonia can last weeks or months after treatment.
Is there anything else I can do to take care of myself?
Yes. You can:
What can I do to keep from getting pneumonia again?
To avoid germs, you can wash your hands often with soap and water, or use alcohol hand rubs.
You can also get certain vaccines to help keep you from getting pneumonia again. Vaccines are treatments that can prevent serious infections. Depending on your individual situation, your doctor might recommend that you get the pneumococcal vaccine. This can help keep you from getting an infection from the kind of bacteria that most commonly causes pneumonia.
Most adults should also get the flu vaccine every year.