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What Is Bacterial Pneumonia?

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.

What Causes Bacterial Pneumonia?

Common types of bacteria that cause pneumonia include Streptococcus, Mycoplasma, Staphylococcus, Haemophilus, Legionella, and bacteria normally found in the intestines and mouth.

What Are the Symptoms of Bacterial Pneumonia?

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.

How Is Bacterial Pneumonia Diagnosed?

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.

How Is Bacterial Pneumonia Treated?

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.

DOs and DON’Ts in Managing Bacterial Pneumonia:

  • DO get pneumonia and flu shots.
  • DO tell your health care provider about medicines you take (prescription and over-the-counter).
  • DO call your health care provider if you’re getting worse or don’t feel better after 2 to 3 days.
  • DO tell your health care provider if you’re pregnant or taking birth control pills.
  • DO call your health care provider right away or go to the emergency room if shortness of breath becomes worse.
  • DO try to cough up as much phlegm as possible.
  • DO wash your hands often, to avoid spreading infection.
  • DO take antibiotics exactly as prescribed, until they’re gone.
  • DO use acetaminophen or aspirin (except in children) to reduce fever and pain.
  • DO drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration.
  • DO breathe moist air (use a humidifier) to help get rid of phlegm.
  • DO call your health care provider if you have fever, green or yellow sputum, increased shortness of breath, chest pain, or dusky-colored skin, lips, or fingernails.
  • DO avoid air pollution and smoke, especially if you have lung problems.
  • DON’T stop taking your medicine just because you feel better.
  • DON’T smoke.
  • DON’T drink alcohol in excess.

Contact the following source:

  • American Lung Association
    Tel: (212) 315-8700, (800) 586-4872
  • National Foundation for Infectious Disease
    Website: pdf

Copyright © 2016 by Saunders, an imprint of Elsevier, Inc.

Ferri’s Netter Patient Advisor