Pneumonia is a type of chest infection. Specifically, it comprises of the small air sacs in the lungs—called alveoli—becoming inflamed and filling with fluid, causing difficulties with breathing.
Pneumonia can usually be diagnosed based on the presence of certain symptoms or through a chest examination. It can be hard to differentiate between a common chest infection and pneumonia. For a more reliable verdict, your medical practitioner may decide to conduct a blood test or take a sputum sample.
The symptoms of this condition are very similar to that of a cold or flu. For this reason, patients can often misjudge their situation, causing the illness to go undiagnosed or ignored. It is possible to cure pneumonia completely; however, if it is allowed to progress it can become life-threatening. The most common marker of pneumonia is excessive coughing.
Patients are also known to experience fever, loss of appetite and feelings of weakness. Other signs to look out for include chest pains, quickened breathing, sweating or shivering and coughing up mucus.
Those at risk
This condition can affect people of any age, although the following may be at higher risk of contraction:
- People with diabetes
- Over 65s
- People with long-term lung, kidney or heart disease
- Babies and young children
- People who drink or smoke excessively
- People diagnosed with HIV
- People with a weakened immune system
For milder cases, sufferers may be prescribed a course of antibiotics to take at home over a few days. Progressive cases of pneumonia may require treatment in the hospital. If the patient is unable to take oral tablets they will be given an IV drip to receive fluids and medication. Some patients will also have access to oxygen if their breathing becomes too strained.
According to the British Lung Foundation, recovery can be a slow process. Here’s what you can expect:
One week. Fever should have subsided.
Four weeks. Chest pains should be gone and mucus should lessen.
Six weeks. Coughing will reduce and it should be easier to breathe.
Three months. Only feelings of tiredness should remain.
Six months. You should be back to normal.