Pneumonia is infection of the lungs. Bacterial pneumonia means that bacteria cause this infection. Bacteria get to lungs by breathing or by the bloodstream. Pneumonia can be mild or life-threatening.
Certain conditions may weaken the body’s defense system and increase chances of getting bacterial pneumonia. These conditions include older age, smoking, drinking alcohol in excess, lung disease, congestive heart failure, diabetes, kidney failure, HIV infection, drugs such as anticancer agents and prednisone, and viral respiratory infections. Healthy people of all ages can also get pneumonia.
Common types of bacteria that cause pneumonia include Streptococcus, Mycoplasma, Staphylococcus, Haemophilus, Legionella, and bacteria normally found in the intestines and mouth.
Symptoms include chest pain, chills, confusion, cough, fever, headache, and muscle and body pain. Others are pain with breathing, yellow or green phlegm (more than usual, sometimes with blood), shortness of breath, sweating, and tiredness. People with severe pneumonia have rapid breathing, low blood pressure, temperature higher than 102° F, and confusion. Some people, such as the very old, may have few symptoms.
The health care provider will take a medical history and do an examination. The health care provider will order chest x-rays. Sputum and blood tests, to find out which bacteria are causing pneumonia may be done in hospitalized patients.
Treatment involves antibiotics. People with milder pneumonia take oral antibiotics and usually start feeling better after 2 to 3 days. Most recover after 7 to 10 days. More severely ill people are hospitalized and are first given antibiotics intravenously. They may get oxygen and have special treatment to help clear phlegm. They may need mechanical ventilation in an intensive care unit. After they improve, they take oral antibiotics. People infected with certain types of bacteria or with chronic medical conditions may need antibiotics for 14 to 21 days or longer.
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