What is Pneumonia by Nurse’s Notes
What Is Pneumonia?
Pneumonia is an infection and inflammation of the lungs.
Do I have pneumonia?
Common symptoms of pneumonia include one or more of the following:
- o Fever and chills
- o Cough
- o Shortness of breath
- o Chest pain, especially when you take a breath
- o Coughing up mucus, sometimes blood stained
- o Muscle aches
- o Not all pneumonias cause a high fever. The only symptom may be several days or weeks of dry cough, often with extreme tiredness. In the case of older adults, the only sign of pneumonia may be confusion or a decrease in physical activity.
How did I get pneumonia?
Pneumonia occurs when the lungs are exposed to germs not usually present in the lungs. Your lungs may have become infected because:
- You were exposed to a large amount of a virus or bacteria.
- Your immune system is compromised because you were already ill, for example, with the flu.
- You have another illness, such as diabetes, chronic bronchitis, or cancer. A chronic illness can make it easier for you to get all kinds of infections. This is why so many older adults develop pneumonia.
- You breathed in (aspirated) stomach contents. Aspiration pneumonia occurs when gastrointestinal problems cause stomach contents to back up into the esophagus and trachea. From there, they are breathed into the lungs. The bacteria that normally live in the mouth can cause pneumonia if breathed into the lungs.
- You have recently had surgery, especially if you had general anesthesia.
What are ways to treat pneumonia?
- ✓ If you smoke, stop. If someone else in your household smokes, ask them to smoke out side.
- ✓ If you were given a prescription for antibiotics, be sure to get it filled right away. Follow the directions exactly. Take the medicine until it is completely gone. Do not stop taking it just because you feel better
- ✓ Rest until you no longer have a fever, chest pain, or shortness of breath.
- ✓ Coughing helps to clear the airways of mucus and will help relieve chest congestion and make it easier to breathe. Use cough medicine only if your provider recommends that you take it to help you get some rest.
- ✓ It is very important to breathe deeply several times an hour when you have pneumonia. If you do not breathe deeply, the lower parts of your lungs can collapse like an inner tube with a slow leak. When the lungs collapse, your pneumonia can get worse.
- ✓ Drink plenty of liquids.
- ✓ Acetaminophen (Tylenol®) or over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medicine such as ibuprofen (Motrin®, Advil®) or naproxen ( Aleve®, Naprosyn®) may help decrease your pain (avoid taking ibuprofen or naproxen if you have a history of bleeding in your stomach).
- ✓ Do not mix narcotic pain medications (such as Tylenol with codeine) with alcohol, driving, or participate in any other activities that you need to be clear-headed and alert for.
- ✓ Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when coughing or sneezing and then throw it away in the nearest waste receptacle.
What if my symptoms worsen?
Seek emergency medical attention if:
o Your cough is getting worse instead of better.
o You have increased trouble breathing.
o You have a fever higher than 101.5° F (38.6° C) orally.
o You start to have chills, nausea, vomiting, or muscle aches.
o You have any symptoms that worry you.
Can I avoid pneumonia?
To help yourself avoid catching pneumonia, do the following:
- Keep your immunizations up to date.
- Get a pneumonia vaccine (Pneumovax) if you have a chronic illness or are 65 years of age or older.
- Get a flu shot every year in the fall.
- Wash your hands often with warm water and soap for at least 15 seconds, especially during cold and flu season. You can also carry an alcohol-based hand cleaner with you to clean your hands when soap and water are not available.
- Do not smoke.