Many people still think of pneumonia as an illness that happens only to the frail and elderly. But pneumonia can strike anyone at any age—including otherwise healthy young adults. Pneumonia is an infection that causes inflammation and fluid buildup in the air sacs of the lungs. It can be severe and even fatal, especially during the winter months, when respiratory infections occur more frequently. ESPN reporter Ed Aschoff’s pneumonia-related death on December 24, 2019—his 34th birthday—is a sad reminder.
Common causes of pneumonia include respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), rhinovirus (the common cold) and Streptococcus pneumoniae (the same bacteria responsible for ear and sinus infections and meningitis). Having the flu, in particular, can raise your risk of developing pneumonia.
Here’s what you need to know about pneumonia to keep your family safe.
Pneumonia can be severe and should be taken seriously
- Is responsible for sending 1.7 million people to the ER every year (with pneumonia as the primary diagnosis)
- Causes nearly 50,000 deaths annually
- Is the most common reason for children to be hospitalized
- Is the most common reason for adults to be hospitalized (other than women giving birth)
- Is the most common cause of sepsis and septic shock
How to know if it’s pneumonia
Symptoms of pneumonia can be the same as for colds and flu, which is why you really need a doctor’s diagnosis to know for sure. A doctor may also be able to identify which type of pneumonia you have and prescribe the appropriate treatment.
Symptoms common to pneumonia, colds and flu include:
- Loss of appetite
- Fatigue, faintness, dizziness, weakness
Additional signs of pneumonia may include:
- A respiratory illness that lingers
- Cough with mucus and/or blood
- Shortness of breath or fast, shallow breathing
- Bluish tint to lips and/or fingertips
- High fever, sweating, shaking chills
- Sharp or stabbing chest pain that gets worse when you inhale deeply or cough
- Nausea and vomiting, especially in young children
- Confusion, especially in older adults
When to go to the ER with pneumonia
Anyone who is having trouble breathing or other severe symptoms should immediately be taken to the ER. Additionally, people in these groups who are experiencing pneumonia-like symptoms should come to the ER:
- Infants and small children
- Seniors over age 65
- People with preexisting lung issues, such as COPD or asthma
- People with other chronic health issues, such as heart disease
How to prevent pneumonia
Prevention is always the best cure for any illness. You can take these important steps to protect your family:
- Talk to your pediatrician or family doctor to make sure everyone is current on all vaccinations, including:
- Flu shots (get them for the whole family at CareNow Urgent Care clinics)
- Whooping cough
- Pneumococcal (pneumonia vaccines)
- Manage chronic health conditions
- Make healthy lifestyle choices
- Wash your hands frequently and teach kids how to do it correctly
- Avoid infected people and learn how to cough and sneeze without infecting others
If you suspect someone in your family has pneumonia, one of our many Medical City Healthcare emergency locations has you covered. With average wait times posted online, if you do have an emergency, you can spend less time waiting and more time on the moments that matter most.