A cough is a regular visitor during cold and flu season, but sometimes that cough could signal a bigger medical issue. What you think is a cold or flu might actually be pneumonia. To stay protected, make sure to you know the symptoms and steps to prevent infection.
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, says Dr. William Mostow, Emergency department medical director at Banner Del E. Webb Medical Center.
“Walking pneumonia simply means that you have pneumonia, but that you are still up and around and don’t need hospitalization,” he 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