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Is Pneumonia a Serious Flu Complication? continued...

With pneumonia, you may have chills, fever, chest pains, sweating, cough with green or bloody mucus, increased pulse, and bluish colored lips or nails because of lack of oxygen. Other pneumonia symptoms include shortness of breath and sharp pains in the chest when you take a deep breath. Sometimes in elderly adults, the only feeling of pneumonia is a pain in the abdomen. When a bacterial infection is superimposed on the flu, symptoms may initially improve only to worsen with higher fevers, increased coughing, and the development of a greenish tinge to sputum.

(For more information, see WebMD's Flu in Older Adults.)

If there is a persistent cough or fever or if shortness of breath or chest pains occur -- especially if these follow another infection such as the flu -- you should contact your doctor. Tests, including a chest X-ray and sputum examination, can help the doctor make the pneumonia diagnosis. While antibiotics can treat bacterial pneumonia, antibiotics cannot treat viral pneumonia.

How Long Does Pneumonia Last?

Pneumonia generally lasts about two weeks, even longer in young children, elderly adults, and those who have compromised immune systems or another chronic illness such as COPD or asthma. Even healthy people may feel tired or weak for a month or more after the lungs clear up.

What Is the Pneumonia Vaccine?

To avoid getting bacterial pneumonia, ask your doctor about the pneumococcal vaccine. There are currently 2 types of pneumococcal vaccines: pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPSV23) for adults and the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV13) for children.

The PPSV23 pneumonia vaccine is safe and provides immunity against 23 subtypes of bacteria that commonly cause pneumonia.

If you are a healthy adult over age 65, it's now recommended you receive bothvaccines. The timing and sequence of the vaccines will vary depending on what vaccines you may have previously had.

Some experts suggest that adults younger than 55 get this vaccine because the immune responsiveness is greater if they do. The PPSV23 pneumonia vaccine is also recommended for people at increased risk for infection, such as those with heart disease, liver disease, lung disease, kidney failure, diabetes, a variety of cancers, sickle cellanemia, HIV/AIDS and for adults 19 through 64 years of age who smoke cigarettes or who have asthma. The pneumonia vaccine is not recommended for pregnant women.

Four doses of the PCV13 pneumonia vaccine are recommended for all children under age 2. For children 2 to 4, who did not receive the pneumonia vaccine series, a single vaccine should be given. For children 6 to 18 with health problems, a single dose of the pneumonia vaccine PCV13 should be given regardless of whether they were previously vaccinated.

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