With Flu cases continuing to rise across the state and country over the past couple of years, the number of pneumonia cases have also been on the rise.
It is one of the most common flu-related complications.
Pneumonia is an infection of the lungs that can cause mild to severe illness in people of all ages.
Whenever you have the flu, it affects your body and allows for a super infection of bacterial pneumonia to cause more health problems.
“Pneumonia may be as simple as you get better on your own without any type of intervention, or you see your regular doctor in the office, and they are able to give you medication until you feel better. But on the other side of the spectrum, it may be as bad as you’re having breathing difficulty, and you may need to be on the breathing machine,” said Corpus Christi Medical Center Dr. Deanna Yamamura.
Most healthy people can fight off pneumonia, but for the young, old, and frail, this disease can be tough to battle.
“If you are to the point you are not getting better, and whatever is going on inside your respiratory system and not getting treated appropriately, then it could get to the point where you develop respiratory distress, and you develop sepsis and like I said, we are on a breathing machine, and we are really in big trouble,” said Yamamura.
Many of the symptoms of pneumonia mimic those of a cold or the flu. So how do you tell the difference?
“I would really look for any type of respiratory issues in someone who is otherwise frail and has other medical conditions. If you already have COPD or asthma, or other types immunocompromised conditions. You should really be more cognitive when you develop respiratory issues and fevers, especially if you have already been on treatment for some type of respiratory illness recently, and you are not getting better. That is when you really need to escalate the care,” said Yamamura.
The best way to prevent pneumonia is to take advantage of vaccinations. Pneumonia often follows the flu, so getting a yearly flu vaccination is key.
Flu kills thousands of Americans annually and sends tens of thousands to the hospital. About 50,000 people die of pneumonia each year. But together, the flu-plus-pneumonia combo is surprisingly dangerous, especially for those at increased risk such as the frail and elderly. In 2016, it was the No. 8 leading cause of death in the United States.
Pneumonia is an infection that inflames the air sacs in one or both lungs. The air sacs may fill with fluid or pus (purulent material), causing cough with phlegm or pus, fever, chills, and difficulty breathing. A variety of organisms, including bacteria, viruses and fungi, can cause pneumonia.
Pneumonia can range in seriousness from mild to life-threatening. It is most serious for infants and young children, people older than age 65, and people with health problems or weakened immune systems.
More than 2,500 children a day die from pneumonia around the world, most of those under the age of 2, making it the leading cause of death for little ones.
Anyone with a chronic disease such as diabetes, kidney problems, heart failure, HIV/AIDS or a lung disease like COPD is also at high risk, as is anyone undergoing chemotherapy or taking an immunosuppressant drug. Smoking and drinking too much alcohol can also raise your chances of getting the disease.
The signs and symptoms of pneumonia vary from mild to severe, depending on factors such as the type of germ causing the infection, and your age and overall health. Mild signs and symptoms often are similar to those of a cold or flu, but they last longer.
Signs and symptoms of pneumonia may include:
• Chest pain when you breathe or cough
• Confusion or changes in mental awareness (in adults age 65 and older)
• Cough, which may produce phlegm
• Fever, sweating and shaking chills
• Lower than normal body temperature (in adults older than age 65 and people with weak immune systems)
• Nausea, vomiting or diarrhea
• Shortness of breath
Many germs can cause pneumonia. The most common are bacteria and viruses in the air we breathe. Your body usually prevents these germs from infecting your lungs. But sometimes these germs can overpower your immune system, even if your health is generally good.
Pneumonia is classified according to the types of germs that cause it and where you got the infection.
To help prevent pneumonia:
• Get vaccinated.
• Make sure children get vaccinated.
• Practice good hygiene.
• Don’t smoke
• Keep your immune system strong. Get enough sleep, exercise regularly and eat a healthy diet
When to see a doctor:
See your doctor if you have difficulty breathing, chest pain, persistent fever of 102 F (39 C) or higher, or persistent cough, especially if you’re coughing up pus.
It’s especially important that people in these high-risk groups see a doctor:
• Adults older than age 65
• Children younger than age 2 with signs and symptoms
• People with an underlying health condition or weakened immune system
• People receiving chemotherapy or taking medication that suppresses the immune system
Even if you have the flu or pneumonia vaccines, frequent hand washing is important to keep you protected.