What Is Pneumonia?

Pneumonia is an inflammation of the lungs that causes the air sacs, called alveoli, to fill with pus. It’s most commonly caused by a bacterial or viral infection. Typical pneumonia symptoms include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Fever
  • Wet cough with thick white, yellow, green or brown phlegm

Pneumonia is a fairly common condition that can affect almost anyone at any time of the year. However, it’s most common in smokers and people who suffer from chronic respiratory diseases.

In many mild to moderate cases, pneumonia does not require hospitalization. But in severe cases, or in patients with chronic diseases or compromised immune systems, pneumonia complications can be fast-moving and life-threatening.

Treating Pneumonia

Unlike a cold or flu, pneumonia isn’t its own disease. In fact, it’s usually a complication of other diseases. This is why pneumonia must be treated differently in different cases. Bacterial pneumonia can be treated with antibiotics, but viral pneumonia cannot.

The severity of the pneumonia will also determine the course of treatment. Mild to moderate cases in otherwise healthy adults can be treated at home once the patient has been checked out by a doctor. This may include:

  • Using a cool-mist vaporizer to ease breathing
  • Medication to reduce aches and fever
  • Bronchodilator medications, administered with an inhaler
  • Drinking plenty of fluids
  • Rest

Severe cases of pneumonia — or pneumonia in infants, elderly adults or individuals with chronic diseases — may require hospitalization. Depending upon the patient’s condition and source of the infection, treatment may include some or all of the above in addition to any of the following:

  • Intravenous antibiotics
  • Oxygen therapy
  • Intubation of the airway
  • Suctioning out thick phlegm

When to Seek Medical Attention

With some illnesses, it’s okay to “wait and see” before seeking medical care. This is not a good idea when it comes to pneumonia. With pneumonia, there are two levels of urgency: “act soon” and “act immediately.”

Act soon (within 24 hours) if:

  • The patient is an otherwise healthy adult
  • The symptoms are mild to moderate
  • The color of the patient’s lips and fingernails is normal

Act immediately (go to the ER or call 9-1-1) if:

  • The patient is an infant or elderly adult
  • The symptoms are severe
  • The color of the patient’s lips or fingernails turns bluish
  • The patient becomes groggy or loses consciousness

Remember: it’s better to get checked out and sent home than it is to delay care until things get serious.

Fighting Pneumonia | Central Oregon

If you or a family member is experiencing symptoms of pneumonia, the St. Charles Heart and Lung Center is here to help. Our expert physicians and staff provide advanced respiratory care services for both children and adults. Our wide array of specialties and team-based approach means that we’re fully equipped to deal with everything from the simplest to most complicated cases.

Not sure where to go, or have other questions? Call us at 541-706-7715. We’re here to help.

The St. Charles Heart and Lung Center offers advanced respiratory care for patients with pneumonia in Central Oregon.