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woman with pneumonia

Pneumonia is an inflammation of the lungs caused by bacteria, viruses, or chemical irritants. It is a serious infection or inflammation in which the air sacs fill with pus and other liquid.

  • Lobar pneumonia: this affects one or more sections (lobes) of the lungs.
  • Bronchial pneumonia (or bronchopneumonia): this affects patches throughout both lungs. childhood pneumonia

What are the different types of pneumonia?

Bacterial pneumonia

This is caused by various bacteria. The streptococcus pneumoniae is the most common bacterium that causes bacterial pneumonia.

Many other bacteria may cause bacterial pneumonia including:

  • Group B streptococcus
  • Staphylococcus aureus
  • Group A streptococcus

Bacterial pneumonia may have a quick onset and the following symptoms may occur:

  • Productive cough
  • Pain in the chest
  • Vomiting or diarrhea
  • Decrease in appetite
  • Fatigue

Viral pneumonia

This is caused by various viruses, including the following:

  • Respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV (most commonly seen in children under age 5)
  • Parainfluenza virus
  • Influenza virus
  • Adenovirus

Early symptoms of viral pneumonia are the same as those of bacterial pneumonia. However, with viral pneumonia, the respiratory involvement happens slowly. Wheezing may occur and the cough may worsen.

Viral pneumonias may make a child susceptible to bacterial pneumonia.

Mycoplasma pneumonia

This presents somewhat different symptoms and physical signs than other types of pneumonia. They generally cause a mild, widespread pneumonia that affects all age groups.

Symptoms usually do not start with a cold, and may include the following:

  • Fever and cough are the first to develop
  • Cough that is persistent and may last three to four weeks
  • A severe cough that may produce some mucus
  • Other less common pneumonias may be caused by the inhaling of food, liquid, gases or dust, or by fungi.

What are the symptoms of pneumonia?

In addition to the symptoms listed above, all pneumonias share the following symptoms.

  • Fever
  • Chest or stomach pain
  • Decrease in appetite
  • Chills
  • Breathing fast or hard
  • Vomiting
  • Headache
  • Not feeling well
  • Fussiness

How is pneumonia diagnosed?

Diagnosis is usually made based on the season and the extent of the illness. Based on these factors, your doctor may diagnose simply on a thorough history and physical examination, but may include the following tests to confirm the diagnosis:

Treatment for pneumonia

Specific treatment for pneumonia will be determined by your doctor based on:

  • Your age, overall health, and medical history
  • Extent of the condition
  • Cause of the condition
  • Your tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies
  • Expectations for the course of the condition
  • Your opinion or preference

Treatment may include antibiotics for bacterial and mycoplasma pneumonia. There is no clearly effective treatment for viral pneumonia, which usually resolves on its own.

Other treatment may include:

  • Appropriate diet
  • Increased fluid intake
  • Cool mist humidifier
  • Acetaminophen (for fever and discomfort)
  • Medication for cough

Some children may be treated in the hospital if you are having severe breathing problems. While in the hospital, treatment may include:

  • Intravenous (IV) or oral antibiotics
  • Intravenous (IV) fluids, if you are unable to drink well
  • Oxygen therapy
  • For children: frequent suctioning of nose and mouth (to help get rid of thick secretions)
  • Breathing treatments