If you have respiratory symptoms, you may be wondering if you have a cold, flu, or covid-19. On top of that, there’s another question to consider. How does pneumonia fit into this?
When you have an infection that makes the alveoli or air sacs in your lungs fill with fluid or pus, that’s pneumonia. In addition to other causes, colds, flus, and covid-19 can each lead to pneumonia.
While most patients recover completely, there is a risk for serious complications, including difficulty breathing and septic shock. Learn what to do if you think you or a loved one has pneumonia.
Medical Care for Pneumonia
When you have pneumonia, the source of your infection could be bacteria, viruses, or fungi. Your treatment will depend on the causes and intensity of your symptoms.
Follow these strategies:
- Get diagnosed. Symptoms can include cough, fever, and chills. Your doctor will ask about your medical history and do tests including chest x-rays and blood screening.
- Take antibiotics. If you have bacterial pneumonia, your doctor will probably prescribe antibiotics. Take the entire supply even if you start feeling okay again.
- Use other medication. For other forms of pneumonia, you may be given antiviral or antifungal agents. Over-the-counter drugs may also help relieve pain and fever.
- Go to the hospital. You might need in-patient care for severe cases. That usually involves monitoring your vital signs and oxygen therapy.
- Follow up. To avoid a relapse, it’s important to ensure that your lungs are clear. Ask your doctor if you need to schedule an appointment for a final chest examination to evaluate your recovery.
Home Remedies and Prevention for Pneumonia
Some risk factors for pneumonia are beyond your control, but there are other things you can do to stay safe.
Many of these steps can help with any respiratory issues:
- Slow down. Your body needs rest while it’s healing. That could mean taking it easy for a few weeks or more.
- Drink liquids. Increasing your fluid intake helps to prevent dehydration and thin your mucus. Smart choices include plain water, herbal tea, and broth.
- Suppress coughing. Some coughing can be productive because it helps clear your lungs. However, if it’s interfering with your rest, you can try cough medicines and natural methods like gargling with salt water.
- Wash your hands. Keep your hands clean. Scrub with soap and warm water, especially during mealtimes and bathroom breaks. Store sanitizer in your car and handbag for when you’re away from home.
- Inhale steam. A hot bath or shower may make you feel more comfortable and ease your breathing. You can also use a humidifier, as long as you keep it clean to avoid bacteria from building up.
- Get vaccinated. If you’re at higher risk for pneumonia due to age or medical conditions, your doctor may recommend the Prevnar 13 or Pneumovax 23 pneumonia vaccine. An annual flu vaccine can also help you to stay well.
- Boost your immune system. A healthy lifestyle helps your body to fight off germs. Eat a balanced diet, exercise regularly, and aim for 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night. Avoid tobacco and excess alcohol.
- Stay home. Viral and bacterial pneumonia, as well as many other respiratory conditions, are contagious. They spread through airborne particles and contaminated surfaces. If possible, stay home when you feel sick, and keep your distance from others.
Call your doctor if you have respiratory symptoms that grow more severe or last longer than 10 days. Knowing what to do in case of pneumonia and related conditions can help you protect your family and yourself, as well as others that you may come into contact with.