Pneumonia in Adults Symptoms

  • Symptoms

    Pneumonia can produce a wide range of symptoms, from mild to severe. These symptoms may include a cough that can be dry or productive (mucus-producing), shortness of breath, chills, fever, and chest pain. How sick people get with pneumonia depends on their age, their general health, and what caused their illness Table 02.

    Specific symptoms can depend on the cause of the infection. For example, the organism Streptococcus pneumoniae, which is responsible for about two-thirds of all cases of pneumonia, may cause an infection that comes on very abruptly. Symptoms of this type of pneumonia may include fever, chills, chest pain, and a cough that may either be dry or bring up mucus. The mucus that is brought up with a productive cough may smell bad, or be bloodstained or a “rusty” color.

    A less typical pneumonia (caused by the organism Mycoplasma pneumoniae) generally causes very mild symptoms. This type of pneumonia might come on slowly, with headache, a general feeling of illness, a low-grade fever, and a dry cough. Mild cases of pneumonia, such as Mycoplasmal pneumonia, are sometimes referred to as “walking pneumonia”.

    Symptoms in the elderly can be less specific, and may include rapid breathing, a low-grade fever (99° to 100°F [37° to 38°C]), and confusion Table 02.

    Symptoms in the elderly can be unlike those normally seen with pneumonia, and may be difficult to recognize. Rapid breathing is an important sign that may occur with a lung infection in an elderly person. Confusion and pain in the upper part of the abdomen are also common with pneumonia in an elderly person.

    Symptoms similar to those produced by pneumonia may occur with bronchitis, people who abuse alcohol or drugs, a drug allergy or reaction, blood clots in the lungs (pulmonary emboli), heart failure, and certain forms of lung cancer. To determine what is causing your pneumonia-like symptoms, clinicians may need to ask you questions, complete a physical exam, and perform tests.

    Table 2.  Common Symptoms of Pneumonia

    Signs of Common Pneumonia
    In Adults In the Elderly
    Cough: can be dry or productive (mucus-producing) Changes in chronic (long-term) coughs and the sputum (mucus) they produce
    Sudden onset of fever Chills Low-grade fever (99? to 100?F [37? to 38?C])
    Shortness of breath Shortness of breath Rapid breathing (more than 20 breaths a minute while at rest)
    Fatigue (feeling tired) Fatigue New onset of confusion
    Chest pain when taking a breath Chest pain or pain in the upper abdomen
    Signs of Severe Pneumonia (requires immediate medical attention)
    Temperature that rises above 104?F (40?C) or falls below 95?F (35?C)
    Pulse equal to or greater than 125 beats per minute while at rest
    Breathing rate greater than 30 breaths per minute while at rest
    Falling blood pressure (systolic blood pressure less than 90 mmHg), causing dizziness, confusion, or fainting
  • Risk Factors

    Pneumonia tends to be more severe among the elderly, the very young, and people with other health problems Table 03.

    People with diseases that affect the immune system, and chronic (long-term) health problems are at higher risk for pneumonia. This is because a body with a weak immune system has trouble protecting itself against germs that enter the lungs. People with weak immune systems include the elderly and the very young, those with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), those who have cancer or are receiving chemotherapy, and organ transplant patients. Other illnesses such as liver or kidney disease, stroke, diabetes, and heart disease also increase the risk for pneumonia.

    Pneumonia can occur after a chest injury, surgery, or any condition that requires a person to stay in bed for an extended period of time. Smoking and alcohol or drug abuse also increase a person's risk for pneumonia.

    Table 3.  Things That Put You at Greater Risk of Getting Pneumonia

    Medical Conditions
    Cancer, or receiving chemotherapy or other cancer treatments
    Recent organ transplant
    Heart disease/coronary artery disease
    Liver or kidney disease
    Chronic bronchitis or emphysema
    Recent upper respiratory tract infection, cold, or flu-like symptoms
    Recent viral infection
    Recent nausea and vomiting
    Problems with gag reflex (frequent choking or difficulty swallowing)
    Recent chest injury, surgery, or condition that required prolonged bedrest
    Age 65 or older
    Alcohol or drug abuse
    Exposure to birds, farm animals, chemicals, or pollutants
    Recent travel to the Southwest or Ohio-Mississippi Valley (places where the risk of inhaling certain fungi may increase)
    Recent hospital stay
    Living in a nursing home

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