Pneumonia is a condition that occurs when you have an infection and the air sacs in your lungs become inflamed. It has many causes and anyone can develop pneumonia at any time. Some people only experience mild symptoms and heal quickly while others end up with an extremely serious case of pneumonia and may need to be hospitalized or could even die from it. For this reason, it's important to know the most common symptoms of pneumonia so that you can get treatment if you think you have it.
One of the most common symptoms of pneumonia is chest pain. It might feel like a sharp, stabbing pain, and it may feel worse when you cough, take a deep breath, or even laugh. Your chest could also feel heavy or as if there is pressure on it. Of course, any kind of chest pain is cause for worry, so always see your doctor or go to an urgent care facility or hospital emergency room if you experience it, whether you think you have pneumonia or not.
Confusion, brain fog, delirium, or general changes in your state of mental awareness can be signs of pneumonia. However, this symptom is more common in older adults, especially those who are over the age of 65. These changes usually come on suddenly.
As with any health problem that affects your lungs, you're likely to have a cough when you develop pneumonia. It may or may not produce phlegm or mucus. The phlegm or mucus might be green, yellow, or bloody.
Almost any health condition can make you feel fatigued, and that includes pneumonia. For this reason, it's important to judge your fatigue along with other symptoms you might experience. For example, if you're just tired, it could be from a stressful situation at work, but you're extremely tired and coughing or experiencing chest pain, you're a more likely candidate for pneumonia. You'll also likely find that you don't have much energy to do everyday tasks. Children and infants with pneumonia may have low energy or appear restless.
Fever or Changes in Body Temperature
Most people experience a fever when they have pneumonia, and it can go as high as 105 degrees Fahrenheit. It's also usually accompanied by profuse sweating and/or chills. Your chills may become so strong that your body shakes. Keep in mind that you should always seek medical help if you have a temperature over 102°F. Meanwhile, older adults over the age of 65 or people who have a weakened immune system due to conditions like pregnancy or underlying health issues may experience a lower than normal body temperature. Infants may also run a low temperature.
Digestive problems aren't necessarily associated with pneumonia but can occur when you have it. These include diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting. In some people, especially those over the age of 65, nausea or vomiting might be due to dizziness rather than problems with the digestive system. Digestive problems are more common in infants and children, even when they don't have other more common symptoms, such as cough, fever, or chest pain.
Shortness of Breath or Changes in Breathing
As you might imagine, an infection in your lungs can greatly impact your breathing. Shortness of breath, especially with movement, is another major symptom of pneumonia. You may also experience rapid or shallow breathing and a rapid heart rate.
Loss of Appetite
Many people experience a loss of appetite when they have pneumonia, and there are a few reasons for this. First, it could be due to obvious digestive issues. You usually don't want to eat if you're nauseated, vomiting, or have diarrhea. Sometimes, it's simply a matter of low energy. Getting something to eat or even the task of eating can feel like a huge task that you just can't accomplish. And finally, breathing problems can affect your ability to eat, which may mean you don't feel like eating. You may even find that it makes you short of breath. Infants, in particular, are prone to difficulties eating when they have pneumonia.
Blue Lips or Nails
You may find that your lips, fingernails, and toenails turn blue or purplish when you have pneumonia. This is due to the lack of oxygen circling through your body.
People Most at Risk for Pneumonia
If you have any of these symptoms, it's always a great idea to get checked out by a doctor. However, there are some people who are more at risk for developing pneumonia than others. If you fall into any of these categories, pneumonia can develop quickly and be deadly. Seek help immediately if you have these signs and symptoms and:
- You are over the age of 65
- You are under the age of 2
- You have underlying health issues, such as heart disease, lung disease, kidney disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), asthma, or diabetes
- You have a weakened immune system for any reason
- You're pregnant
- You are currently or have recently undergone chemotherapy
- You take medication that suppresses the immune system
- You've recently had an illness like a cold or the flu
- You've recently spent time in the hospital, such as in an intensive care unit (ICU), and especially if you were on a breathing machine for any length of time
- You generally have trouble breathing
- You're a smoker
- You have HIV/AIDS
- You're on steroids
- You've had an organ transplant
- You've had surgery, especially if you didn't follow pre-surgery instructions not to eat or drink
- You've got dementia, Alzheimer's disease, or a brain injury
- You've had a stroke