Pneumonia is the inflammation of the lungs. While usually caused by a bacterium, fungus, or virus, pneumonia sometimes develops after exposure to certain liquids or chemicals. Pneumonia causes breathing difficulties, and usually also involves a cough and fever. Since the type of treatment given for pneumonia depends upon what caused it, blood tests and x-rays are used to determine the best course of action.

Pneumonia is a serious illness affecting the lungs. The term pneumonia actually refers to an inflammation of the lungs in which the lung sacs, or areoles, fill with fluid, to the point that they may turn solid. Pneumonia cases run from mild to severe and in some cases, the illness becomes life threatening. However, most people recover from pneumonia over the course of one to three weeks.1

Beyond common sense sanitary precautions such as hand washing, one of the best ways to prevent contracting pneumonia is a yearly flu shot, since the flu may be severe enough to cause pneumonia. Additionally, for people at high risk, vaccination for pneumococcal pneumonia is advisable.

During the course of the illness, people generally run a fever, cough a lot, and have difficulty breathing. Treating symptoms of pneumonia involves determining the type of pneumonia the person has. Things such as drinking plenty of fluids, getting a lot of rest, and using NSAIDs and acetaminophen to control fever are common suggestions for dealing with the illness.

Antibiotics are often prescribed to people with pneumonia. What type of antibiotics is used depends upon the type of pneumonia. Bacterial Pneumonia is caused most often by:

  • Streptococcus pneumoniae:
  • Haemophilus influenzae:
  • Klebsiella pneumonia
  • Staphylococcus aureus
  • Methicillin resistant staphylococcus aureus
  • Pseudomonas aeruginosa2

Different antibiotics work on certain bacteria better than others do. Thus, knowing the bacteria involved determines the drug used.

Additionally, some physicians prescribe antibiotics in cases of viral pneumonia as well, as a precautionary measure to fight any secondary infections. Certain medications, called antivirals, may be prescribed in cases of viral pneumonia, which is usually caused by one of the following viruses:

  • Adenovirus
  • Influenza
  • Parainfluenza
  • Respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV3

Viral pneumonia accounts for about one-third of diagnosed pneumonia cases.4

Diagnosing any type of pneumonia requires a physical exam and history by a health care professional. Diagnosing the illness may also entail chest x-rays, blood tests, CAT scans, nasal swabs, and sputum cultures.5

For all types of pneumonia, when the illness becomes severe, hospitalization is a necessity. Hospital treatment typically includes IV fluids, antibiotics, and oxygen therapy.6 Generally, the very young and the very old are most at risk of developing serious pneumonia.

For most people, bacterial pneumonia generally clears up with antibiotics.  Viral pneumonia may get better with rest and drinking liquids, in addition to prescribed medications such as antivirals. However, in all cases, recovery may take time. Those with bacterial pneumonia often start improving one to three days after starting antibiotics. Recovery from viral pneumonia may take one to three weeks.7 Since pneumonia is a serious illness, take time to ease gradually back into regular activities.

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Additional Diseases Info:

Asthma infographic


alveolus air sac where gas exchange takes place.
angina chest pain.
aorta blood vessel that delivers oxygen-rich blood from the left ventricle to the body; it is the largest blood vessel in the body.
apex top portion of the upper lobes of the lungs.
atrium one of the two receiving chambers of the heart.
base bottom portion of lower lobes, located just above the diaphragm.
blood pressure pressure of blood against the walls of a blood vessel or heart chamber.
bronchiolitis inflammation that involves the bronchioles (small airways).
bronchoscopy the examination of the bronchi (the main airways of the lungs) using a flexible tube (bronchoscope). Bronchoscopy helps to evaluate and diagnose lung problems, assess blockages, obtain samples of tissue and/or fluid, and/or to help remove a foreign body.
bronchus large airways; lung divides into right and left bronchi.
cardiac output total amount of blood being pumped by the heart over a particular period of time.
catheter thin, flexible medical tube; one use is to insert it into a blood vessel to measure blood pressure.
constrict tighten; narrow.
cyanosis bluish color in the skin because of insufficient oxygen.
diaphragm primary muscle used for respiration, located just below the lung bases.
diastolic pressure lowest pressure to which blood pressure falls between contractions of the ventricles.
dilate relax; expand.
dyspnea sensation of difficulty in breathing.
edema swelling due to the buildup of fluid.
endothelial cells the delicate lining, only one cell thick, of the organs of circulation.
expiration exhaling; giving off carbon dioxide.
heartbeat one complete contraction of the heart.
hyperactive describes a situation in which a body tissue is especially likely to have an exaggerated reaction to a particular situation.
hypertension abnormally high blood pressure.
hypotension abnormally low blood pressure.
inspiration inhaling; taking in oxygen.
lobectomy removal of an entire lobe of the lung.
lung volume the amount of air the lungs hold.
mean blood pressure average blood pressure, taking account of the rise and fall that occurs with each heartbeat. It is often estimated by multiplying the diastolic pressure by two, adding the systolic pressure, and then dividing this sum by three.
palpitation sensation of rapid heartbeats.
perfusion flow.
pleura membrane that covers the outside of the lung.
pneumonectomy removal of an entire lung.
pulmonary artery blood vessel delivering oxygen-poor blood from the right ventricle to the lungs.
pulmonary hypertension abnormally high blood pressure in the arteries of the lungs.
smooth muscle muscle that performs automatic tasks, such as constricting blood vessels.
spirogram record of the amounts of air being moved in and out of the lungs.
syncope fainting; temporary loss of consciousness.
systemic relating to a process that affects the body generally; in this instance, the way in which blood is supplied through the aorta to all body organs except the lungs.
systolic pressure the highest pressure to which blood pressure rises with the contraction of the ventricles.
vasodilator agent that widens blood vessels.
ventilation movement of air (gases) in and out of the lungs.
ventricle one of the two pumping chambers of the heart; right ventricle receives oxygen-poor blood from the right atrium and pumps it to the lungs through the pulmonary artery; left ventricle receives oxygen-rich blood from the left atrium and pumps it to the body through the aorta.