Pneumonia can be mild. But it can also be very serious, especially if you do not get it treated quickly.

Pneumonia can be mild. But it can also be very serious, especially if you do not get it treated quickly.

Dr. Sunil Bohra, Senior Consultant – Internal Medicine, Fortis Hospital, Richmond road, Bangalore shares symptoms, diagnosis and treatment of pneumonia

Pneumonia is an infection of the lungs generally caused by bacteria and viruses. The most common bacterial cause of pneumonia is a type of bacteria called Streptococcus pneumoniae, while influenza or the flu is the common viral cause of pneumonia. The estimated worldwide incidence of community-acquired pneumonia varies between 1.5 to 14 cases per 1000 person-years, and India accounts for 23 per cent of global pneumonia burden with case fatality rates between 14 and 30 per cent.

Common symptoms of pneumonia in adults include fever, chills, shortness of breath, chest pain during breathing, an increased heart and breathing rate, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, and a cough that often produces green or yellow sputum. However, children can have different symptoms like dehydration, difficulty in breathing, refraining from eating properly, coughing, fever, irritability and may even vomit after coughing.

Pneumonia can be mild. But it can also be very serious, especially if you do not get it treated quickly.

It’s especially important to consult your doctor immediately if:

  1. Fever and cough with phlegm does not improve or worsens over a period of time
  2. You experience difficulty in breathing while doing everyday tasks or while resting
  3. You have chest pain when you breathe
  4. Your condition worsens suddenly after getting better from a cold or the flu
  5. You have a weakened immune system, have had an organ transplant or stem cell (bone marrow) transplant, or if you take medicines that suppress the immune system
  6. You already have underlying medical problems such as heart disease, diabetes, or chronic lung disease
  7. You are a young child or an older adult > 65 years of age.
  8. Developed confusion along with the respiratory symptoms, especially in the elderly.


Pneumonia is typically diagnosed with a medical history and physical examination as well as a chest X-ray. Blood tests, Sputum examination. CT Scan and Bronchoscopy are required in certain subset of patients.

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Initially people with community acquired Pneumonia are treated at home with oral antibiotics based on the type of organism which is likely to be causing it.

People who are seriously ill or are at increased risk for complications may be hospitalised for monitoring of heart rate, breathing rate, temperature, and oxygen levels. People who are hospitalised usually get intravenous antibiotics. Most people begin to improve after three to five days of antibiotic treatment, while hospitalised patients may not be able to resume their normal activities for three weeks or longer.


Vaccination is an important way to prevent Pneumonia and its complications. The pneumococcal vaccine as well as the influenza or flu vaccine are the most commonly available vaccines that are recommended for vulnerable populations.

Quitting smoking is an important step to prevent pneumonia. Infection control practices like frequent hand washing with soap and water or alcohol based hand rubs can be very effective.

People who have symptoms of pneumonia should cover their mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing, dispose their used tissues immediately, and wash their hands frequently. Sneezing or coughing into the sleeve of one’s clothing such as the inner part of elbow is another way to keep saliva and secretions from spreading to others.

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