Don’t sleep on community-acquired pneumonia

January 22, 2019
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  • Community-acquired pneumonia can strike quickly.
  • Seek medical care immediately if you experience symptoms.

If ever there was an argument for making regular visits to your health care provider, especially for seniors, it’s what’s known as community-acquired pneumonia.

What is community-acquired pneumonia?

This is pneumonia — an infection of the lung — that occurs in people outside hospital and health care settings. Some pneumonias are considered hospital-acquired, but community-acquired pneumonia is regarded as particularly deadly, and in fact, a significant cause of illness and death worldwide. It is the most common form of pneumonia seen in emergency rooms.

Pneumonia is especially dangerous to young children and to people older than 65, because their immune systems are not fully developed or weakened. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said pneumonia killed 15.1 people out of every 100,000 in 2016.

There are differences in the viruses that are most likely to cause community-acquired pneumonia and those that tend to cause hospital-acquired pneumonia. The types of bacteria that cause community-acquired pneumonia may be rarer than other types of pneumonia. In general, cases of community-acquired pneumonia are relatively easy to diagnose but can be more complex and difficult to treat. 

The CDC breaks down different causes of pneumonia, from fungi to virus, and discusses the symptoms and most common treatments.

Whatever the cause, if you or a loved one experience the common symptoms of pneumonia, such as coughing, chills, fever and shortness of breath — see a medical professional immediately. There are cases of patients who report with symptoms, receive treatment, but die because too much time has elapsed between onset and treatment.

How is it treated?

If a health care professional sends you home to recover, he or she will likely encourage you to drink plenty of fluids, get plenty of rest and control your fever with over-the-counter medications such as aspirin or acetaminophen.

If you require hospitalization, you’ll likely be given antibiotics to combat bacterial infection or antiviral medication in the case of a viral infection. 

Pneumonia may last a few days up to a week or longer, and people often say they don’t feel fully recovered for several weeks. 

What you should know

Swedish’s Dr. Elizabeth Meade discusses how to treat the flu, which can lead to pneumonia.

The American Lung Association offers a common-sense set of suggestions to help prevent pneumonia:
  • Get vaccinated
  • Wash your hands frequently
  • Don’t smoke
  • Be aware of your general health, so you’ll recognize if a cough or chills are out of the ordinary

The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute offers a helpful explanation of the causes, risks and treatments of pneumonia.

If you’re coughing, chilled, experiencing chest pain or feeling short of breath, don’t delay: Seek out a health care professional. To connect with Swedish caregivers, book an appointment online or visit our directory.

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This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your health care professional's instructions.

Topics: Wellness