Signs and Symptoms of Pneumonia: Is Pneumonia Contagious?

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Pneumonia refers to as an infection of the lungs that results from various microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses, parasites and fungi. Read on to understand the signs and symptoms of pneumonia. Pneumonia causes the infection of one or both lungs. It is characterized by the inflammation of lungs. It is mainly caused by the infection due to bacteria, fungi, viruses or parasites. Pneumonia generally starts following the infection in upper respiratory tract. After this infection, symptoms of pneumonia appear after 2-3 days of cold or sore throat. People older than 65 years or younger than 2 years of age and people with impaired immune system or chronic illness are at higher risk of pneumonia. There are more than 50 types of pneumonia that range in severity from mild to life-threatening. Pneumonia accounts for the death of more than 60,000 people in the United States every year. Causes of Pneumonia Pneumonia is mainly caused by the infections from microorganisms such as bacteria, fungi and viruses. Bacterial infection is the most common and most serious cause of pneumonia. Streptococcus pneumoniae is the most common bacterium causing pneumonia in adults. Respiratory viruses are another common cause of pneumonia. Mycoplasma pneumoniae is the common microorganism causing pneumonia in children of 2-3 years of age. In some elderly people, pneumonia may be followed by influenza or common cold. There are different types of pneumonia depending upon the cause of disease such as community-acquired pneumonia (acquired at work or school), hospital-acquired pneumonia (gastroesophageal reflux disease is the predisposing factor), aspiration pneumonia (because of inhaling the foreign matter), pneumonia caused by opportunistic organisms (common in people with compromised immune system) and emerging pathogens such as outbreaks of H5N1 influenza virus/bird flu and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). Signs and Symptoms of Pneumonia In most cases, people have the symptoms of cold before developing pneumonia. It is followed by high fever, cough and shaking chills. Severity of symptoms varies according to the causes and age of the patient. Chest pain is the most common symptom in most types of pneumonia. Bacterial pneumonia: Bacterial pneumonia causes symptoms such as high fever, shaking chills, chest pain, sweating, cough with thick, yellow or greenish sputum and shortness of breath. Viral pneumonia: Viral pneumonia is characterized by the signs that are similar to flu-like symptoms. It generally starts as a dry cough, fever, fatigue, headache and muscle pain. When the disease progresses, it causes shortness of breath and cough with small quantities of clear or white phlegm. Viral pneumonia invites the risk of developing a secondary bacterial pneumonia. Fungal pneumonia: This type of pneumonia is less common. Some people may develop acute pneumonia after inhaling the fungi, while some may develop chronic pneumonia. Pneumonia due to Mycoplasma: Mycoplasma causes the signs and symptoms of pneumonia similar to bacterial and viral pneumonia. These symptoms may be flu-like and mild. You may not require any medical treatment for this type of pneumonia. That’s why this pneumonia is known as walking pneumonia. Pneumocystis carinii: It is an opportunistic organism that causes infection in people with AIDS. It can lead to pneumonia. The signs of such type of pneumonia are persistent cough, fever and shortness of breath. Diagnosis and Treatment of Pneumonia Diagnosis of pneumonia is based on the physical examination, imaging tests such as X-ray, bronchoscopy and certain laboratory investigations such as sputum examination and blood tests such as white blood cell count. Treatment option for pneumonia is decided depending upon the cause of pneumonia. Pneumonia can be treated with antibiotics, antiviral medications, antifungal medications, etc. Some over-the-counter medications are also recommended to treat pain, reduce fever and soothe the cough. Is pneumonia contagious? People often ask, is pneumonia contagious? Will we catch the infection if we come in contact with an infected person? Pneumonia is a life-threatening infection of lungs. However, pneumonia itself is not a contagious disease. But bacteria and viruses that cause pneumonia can be contagious. People when exposed to infection may catch the symptoms of normal cough and cold symptoms. It is not necessary that each person, exposed to cold virus or bacteria, develops pneumonia. It depends on the susceptibility and immunity of that individual. Transmission of infection may occur due to direct exposure to infectious secretions.

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