Health Watch by Stever Mullenix

The North Jefferson News

As we address the concerns of this flu season, there is another condition that an individual may contract and is often confused as being the flu.

In reality, pneumonia can make you much sicker. It can often be treated at home and often clears up in two to three weeks. For older adults, babies and people with other diseases, pneumonia can result in hospitalization.

It’s important to realize that pneumonia is a disease that you can have anytime of the year, however it is a little more prevalent this time of year, due to the increased occurrences of upper respiratory infections currently being experienced.

You can get pneumonia in your daily life, such as school or work. This is called community-based pneumonia. You can also get pneumonia while in the hospital or in a nursing home. This is called hospital-based pneumonia. The second type is often much worse.

Pneumonia can be caused by bacteria, a virus or fungus by which otherwise healthy individuals most likely would not be affected. It often starts as an upper respiratory infection, such as flu or a cold. The symptoms of pneumonia include:

• productive cough, usually green, rusty, or blood-tinged

• fever, although less common in adults

• chills or shaking

• fast, often shallow breathing, shortness of breath

• chest wall pain, that is often worse by coughing or breathing in

• fast heartbeat

• feeling very tired

• nausea and vomiting

• diarrhea

When these symptoms are mild, your physician may call it “walking pneumonia.” Older adults may have different or milder symptoms. They may not have a fever or productive cough. The main sign of pneumonia in older adults is the change in how well they think. Confusion or delirium is common.

In children, the symptoms may manifest as having little or no energy, eating poorly, grunting or having a fever.

Other conditions that may look like pneumonia include bronchitis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and tuberculosis.

After you’ve been infected with a pneumonia-causing organism, it may take as little as one to three days or as long as seven to 10 days for the symptoms to appear.

Pneumonia is treated with antibiotics. How long you take antibiotics depends on the type of antibiotic used, your general health condition and how serious your pneumonia is.

After starting antibiotic therapy, improvement in symptoms should be seen within two to three days. It is important to complete all your antibiotics even though your symptoms may no longer be present.

Of course, the faster you get treatment, the sooner you will get over the pneumonia. However, you should seek immediate emergency medical attention if any of the following occur:

• chest pain that is crushing or squeezing, is increasing in intensity or occurring with other symptoms of a heart attack

• have such a hard time breathing you fear you’ll not have enough strength to continue breathing

• cough up a large amount of blood

• feel you will faint if you stand

It would be advised to call your physician if you experience any of the following:

• a cough that produces blood-tinged or rust-colored mucus from the lungs

• a fever with chills or shaking

• difficult, shallow, fast breathing with shortness of breath and wheezing

• productive cough of yellow or green mucus from the lungs for longer than two days

• a fever of over 101 with yellow or green colored mucus

• chest pain worsened when taking deep breaths

For older individuals, there is a pneumonia vaccine available and should be included in your vaccination profile. The pneumonia vaccine is usually taken every five years.

While pneumonia can be a very serious condition, with appropriate medical treatment the condition can be treated with minimal disturbance of your daily life.

Steve Mullenix (R.Ph) co-owns The Pharmacy in Mount Olive with his wife, Sherry Mullenix (J.D., R.N.). They can be reached at 631-1201.

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