Pneumonia is an infection that causes inflammation in your lungs. Viral pneumonia is a complication of the viruses that cause colds and the flu. It accounts for about one third of pneumonia cases. The virus invades your lungs and causes them to swell, blocking your flow of oxygen.
If a virus is causing your pneumonia, antibiotics won't help, but your doctor may prescribe an antiviral medication. If you have an influenza virus, your doctor may prescribe medications such as oseltamivir (Tamiflu), zanamivir (Relenza), or peramivir (Rapivab). These drugs keep flu viruses from spreading in your body.
A viral pneumonia can make you feel pretty sick for a few days with fever, cough, and generalized fatigue. Viral pneumonia goes away on its own. Bacterial pneumonia, if left untreated can make someone a lot sicker. Without antibiotics bacterial pneumonia can result in a blood infection, or even an abscess in the lung.
How to Spot Pneumonia Symptoms: What Seems Like a Cold or Flu Could Be More Serious. In the spectrum of respiratory illnesses, the flu is generally worse than the common cold. Pneumonia, meanwhile, can be more serious than both, especially for young children and the elderly.
Here's what those symptoms look like: In bacterial pneumonia, patients usually develop a high fever with possible shaking chills. You may also have moderate or severe chest pain when you cough or draw in a deep breath. The cough produces a thick phlegm that is green, yellow or rust-colored.
The most common symptoms of pneumonia are:
- Cough (with some pneumonias you may cough up mucus, or even bloody mucus)
- Fever, which may be mild or high.
- Shaking chills.
- Shortness of breath (may only occur when you exert yourself)
Catching pneumonia. The germs that can cause pneumonia are usually breathed in. People often have small amounts of germs in their nose and throat that can be passed on through: coughs and sneezes – these launch tiny droplets of fluid containing germs into the air, which someone else can breathe in.
Mild pneumonia can usually be treated at home with rest, antibiotics and by drinking plenty of fluids. More severe cases may need hospital treatment. Unless a healthcare professional tells you otherwise, you should always finish taking a prescribed course of antibiotics, even if you feel better.
For example, a person with bacterial pneumonia will stop being contagious within two days of taking antibiotics. For other types of pneumonia – like the one that can cause tuberculosis – the treatment may have to be administered for at least two weeks before a person is no longer contagious.
If pneumonia is suspected, your doctor may recommend the following tests:
- Blood tests. Blood tests are used to confirm an infection and to try to identify the type of organism causing the infection.
- Chest X-ray.
- Pulse oximetry.
- Sputum test.
How Is Pneumonia Diagnosed?
- Physical exam: Your doctor will listen to your lungs with a stethoscope. If you have pneumonia, your lungs may make crackling, bubbling, and rumbling sounds when you inhale.
- Chest X-ray (if your doctor suspects pneumonia).
- Some patients may need other tests, including:
Influenza is spread easily from person to person, usually when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Pneumonia is a serious infection or inflammation of the lungs. Most cases of flu never lead to pneumonia, but those that do tend to be more severe and deadly.
The flu can become pneumonia. In fact, about one-third of all pneumonia cases in this country are caused by respiratory viruses, most commonly influenza. As Jason Turowski, MD, a pulmonologist at Cleveland Clinic, puts it, “viruses set up shop and basically wreak havoc on your lungs.”
It can happen when the flu virus enters your lung or when you get a bacterial infection during the course of the illness. Pneumonia can make you quite ill and may send you to the hospital. It can cause chills, fever, chest pains, and sweating. You might have a cough with green or bloody mucus.
Pneumonia Is Not Contagious, But Viruses and Bacteria Are. Pneumonia, in itself, is not contagious, but the germs that cause it often are. Germs and viruses that cause the flu, common cold, or bacterial infections are contagious and can lead to pneumonia.
Bacterial Pneumonia: Bacterial pneumonia is caused by bacteria germs. The streptococcus pneumoniae germ is the most common cause of bacterial pneumonia. Viral Pneumonia: Viral pneumonia is caused by virus germs. Viral pneumonia is usually less serious than bacterial pneumonia.
Bacterial pneumonia is usually more serious as it causes more severe symptoms. However, viral pneumonia caused by the flu virus can be life-threatening as well if it triggers a particularly severe inflammation of the lungs or is complicated by a secondary bacterial infection.
The most common cause of bacterial pneumonia is a type of bacteria known as Streptococcus pneumoniae. Haemophilus influenzae, Chlamydia pneumoniae, Mycoplasma pneumoniae, and Legionella pneumophila are some other major bacteria that cause pneumonia.
But with walking pneumonia, a person may not feel it until 2 to 3 weeks after becoming infected. Most types of pneumonia clear up within a week or two, although a cough can linger for several weeks more. In severe cases, it may take longer to completely recover.
People who have the flu often feel some or all of these symptoms:
- Fever* or feeling feverish/chills.
- Sore throat.
- Runny or stuffy nose.
- Muscle or body aches.
- Fatigue (tiredness)
- Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults.
Fungal pneumonia is an infection of the lungs by fungi. It can be caused by either endemic or opportunistic fungi or a combination of both. Case mortality in fungal pneumonias can be as high as 90% in immunocompromised patients, though immunocompetent patients generally respond well to anti-fungal therapy.