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Bacterial Pneumonia

Bacterial Pneumonia Symptoms

Doctors often refer to typical and atypical pneumonias, based on your signs and symptoms. This can help to predict the type of bacteria causing your pneumonia, how long you can expect to be sick, and your best treatment.

  • Typical pneumonia usually comes on very quickly.
    • You often have a high fever and shaking chills.
    • When you cough, your sputum may be yellow or brown.
    • You may have sharp chest pain, which is usually worse with breathing or coughing. Your chest also may be sore when you touch or press it.
    • You may be very short of breath, especially if you have any chronic lung conditions such as asthma or emphysema.
    • Because chest pain also can be a sign of other serious medical conditions, do not try to diagnose yourself. Call 911 if you are having pain.
  • Atypical pneumonia usually has a more gradual onset.
    • It is sometimes called "walking pneumonia."
    • You may have had another illness in the days to weeks before the pneumonia.
    • Your temperature may be lower (although it will still be high), and shaking chills are less likely.
    • You may have a headache, body aches, and joint pain.
    • Your cough may be dry or produce only a little sputum. You may or may not have any chest pain.
    • You may have abdominal pain.
    • You may have other symptoms, such as feeling tired or weak.
    • Some people can have confusion or a change in their mental abilities as a sign of pneumonia or other infection. This is more common in the elderly or those with Legionnaires' disease.

When to Seek Medical Care

When to call the doctor

  • If you suspect that you may have pneumonia or have any of the symptoms listed above, call your doctor.

When to go to the hospital

Call 911 for any chest pain, difficulty breathing, or confusion.

Anyone with shortness of breath should always seek emergency care. Shortness of breath is not simply the feeling that you can't take a full breath. It is the feeling that you cannot take in enough air to meet your body’s needs. It is a potentially serious symptom and always requires a visit to an Emergency Department, no matter how healthy you are.

You are at higher risk to catch pneumonia if you have the following:

  • A chronic health problem, such as diabetes
  • A poor immune system because of HIV, AIDS, steroid use, or anti-rejection medications (people with organ transplants take these medications)
  • Diseased or damaged lungs, such as with asthma or emphysema
  • Are very young or very old

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