A cough seems to be a regular visitor during the cold and flu season, so when I had one a few years ago I wasn’t too concerned at first.
But then I noticed that while my other cold and flu symptoms seemed to disappear, my cough was just not going away. And I would randomly run a fever every couple of days. Finally, I admitted to myself that over-the-counter cold medicine was not going to fix this one, and I paid a visit to my primary care physician.
After he listened to my lungs, he sent me for a chest X-ray and confirmed his suspicions – I had pneumonia. After plenty of rest and a round of antibiotics, I was good as new!
I’ve learned that, during cold and flu seasons, it is important to keep an eye on any symptoms that might be outside the norm for this time of year.
There are two main types of pneumonia:
- Viral pneumonia (caused by another virus, such as the flu)
- Bacterial pneumonia (can be caused when the body is weakened by illness, poor nutrition, etc. and bacteria settles in the lungs).
Most people think that “walking pneumonia” is its own kind of the illness, but that is not the case, according to Banner Del E. Webb’s Emergency department Medical Director William Mostow, MD, FACEP.
“Walking pneumonia simply means that you have pneumonia, but that you are still up and around and don’t need hospitalization,” Dr. Mostow said.
Do you know the symptoms?
Symptoms of pneumonia include:
- Confused mental state or delirium, especially in older people
- Cough that produces green, yellow, or bloody mucus
- Heavy sweating
- Loss of appetite
- Low energy and extreme tiredness
- Rapid breathing
- Rapid pulse
- Shaking chills
- Sharp or stabbing chest pain that’s worse with deep breathing or coughing
- Shortness of breath that gets worse with activity
- Bluish color to lips and fingernails
If your doctor tells you that you have pneumonia, it is important to not only take your prescriptions and rest but to do your part to stop it from spreading to others.
“Since respiratory diseases are contracted via droplets (coughing and sneezing) it’s a good idea to stay away from others until there is no fever and symptoms are improving,” Dr. Mostow said.
While pneumonia can’t be completely prevented, there are steps you can take to help:
- Get your annual flu shot
- Talk to your doctor about the pneumonia vaccine
- Wash hands frequently
- Avoid contact with sick people