Pneumonia Symptoms

Pneumonia, a lung infection, can cause coughing, hacking, or wheezing. You might think it’s just a cold or the flu. How can you tell the difference? Your other symptoms can give you some clues.

Common Pneumonia Symptoms

Pneumonia symptoms can range from mild to severe, depending on what’s causing the illness and how healthy you are in general. They can include:

  • High fever, up to 105 F
  • Coughing up greenish, yellow, or bloody mucus
  • Chills that make you shake
  • Feeling like you can’t catch your breath, especially when you move around a lot
  • Feeling very tired
  • Loss of appetite
  • Sharp or stabbing chest pain (you might feel it more when you cough or take a deep breath)
  • Sweating a lot
  • Fast breathing and heartbeat
  • Lips and fingernails turning blue
  • Confusion (in older people)

Bacterial vs. Viral Pneumonia Symptoms

Bacteria and viruses are the most common causes of pneumonia. Fungi and parasites can sometimes cause it.

When the cause is bacteria, the illness can come on either slowly or quickly. It tends to be more serious than other types.

When a virus causes your pneumonia, you’re more likely to notice symptoms over several days. Early signs will look like the flu -- such as fever, dry cough, headache, and weakness -- but get worse in a day or two.

Pneumonia Symptoms in Children

When kids have pneumonia, their symptoms might be harder to spot. They may have:

Symptoms in babies might be vague, like fussiness or trouble feeding.

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Pneumonia vs. Cold and Flu Symptoms

It’s tricky, because pneumonia can be a complication of colds and flu. This happens when the germs that cause those common illnesses get into your lungs. You might be feeling better, but then you start getting symptoms again -- and this time, they can be a lot worse.

Cold symptoms tend to start slowly. You’re more likely to sneeze and have a runny nose and sore throat than with either the flu or pneumonia. Colds don’t usually cause a fever in adults.

The top clue that you have the flu is that the symptoms come on strong, seemingly out of nowhere. You may have:

  • Fever above 100.4 F
  • Headache
  • Severe aches and pains
  • Extreme tiredness
  • Dry, hacking cough

These symptoms tend to ease up in 2 to 5 days, but you might have a mild cough or sore throat for 2 weeks.

When to Call Your Doctor

Call your doctor right away if you or your child has a cold or the flu that doesn’t get better with rest and treatment, if the symptoms start to get worse, if you have other medical problems or a weakened immune system, or if you notice possible symptoms of pneumonia. Anyone with this lung infection needs medical attention.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on February 04, 2020

Sources

SOURCES:

McNeese State University: “Cold, Flu, Pneumonia?”

University of Missouri: “Is It a Cold, the Flu, or Pneumonia?”

Western State Colorado University: “Is It a Cold, Flu, Or Pneumonia?”

Cleveland Clinic: “Pneumonia.”

Johns Hopkins Medicine: “Pneumonia.”

American Lung Association: “Pneumonia Symptoms and Diagnosis.”

Nemours/KidsHealth: “Pneumonia.”

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