The lung infection known as pneumonia can be serious, although in a typically healthy person it is not life threatening, according to NCH Medical Group physician Laura Tommaso, M.D. “What a lot of people don’t know is that pneumonia is often a secondary infection to a common virus, such as the flu,” she says. “That means that in many cases, it can be prevented simply by having an annual flu vaccine.”
In addition, the pneumonia vaccine is recommended for children younger than 5 years old, adults 65 years and older and individuals with certain risk factors. “The best way to deal with pneumonia is to avoid it in the first place by getting the vaccine,” Dr. Tommaso says.
Common symptoms of pneumonia include cough, fever, fatigue, difficulty breathing, nausea and vomiting. However, not every person with a bad cough has pneumonia, and not everyone with the flu will get pneumonia. “Listening to a patient’s lungs usually helps us pinpoint pneumonia,” says Dr. Tommaso. “Sometimes your doctor may order a chest X-ray or a blood test to confirm the diagnosis.”
Once a case of pneumonia is diagnosed, the person is usually treated with antibiotics and sometimes with steroids to help with the associated inflammation. Most people can recover at home, but sometimes people need to go to the hospital to receive antibiotics through an I.V. because the infection is advanced. “For people with certain respiratory conditions, diabetes, or those whose immune systems are compromised, pneumonia can be extremely serious,” Dr. Tommaso
Dr. Tommaso is board certified in Family Practice and sees patients at 1538 N. Arlington Heights Road, Arlington Heights.
Test your pneumonia know-how with this short quiz!
What is pneumonia?
a. A lung infection (either viral, bacterial or fungal)
b. A temporary condition caused by talking too much
What are some common symptoms of pneumonia?
a. Cough, fever, fatigue, difficulty breathing and inability to eat due to nausea and vomiting
b. Hair loss
Who is most susceptible to pneumonia?
a. People with respiratory conditions such as asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, people with diabetes or with immune-compromising diseases, and the very young and the very old
How can you tell the difference between pneumonia, bronchitis and a bad cough?
a. Bronchitis or a bad cough is usually not accompanied by a fever. Also, when people have bronchitis or a bad cough they usually have a fairly normal appetite and energy level, though they may feel short of breath.
b. They are spelled differently.