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What are pneumonia symptoms?

Learn to identify pneumonia symptoms and find out more about the condition.

Pneumonia symptoms begin in the lungs. [©Shutterstock, 2010]
©Shutterstock, 2010
Pneumonia symptoms begin in the lungs.

Pneumonia symptoms vary greatly from case-to-case and can be mild to moderate or severe. Pneumonia is a general term that describes a lung infection; such infections can be caused by viruses, bacteria or fungi. With such a variety of causes, it's no surprise that pneumonia can have a wide variety of symptoms as well. If you find that you've developed one or several of the symptoms below, you should seek medical attention. A doctor can diagnose pneumonia and begin the appropriate treatment regimen.   Find out more about pneumonia at the National Institutes of Health pneumonia page, or by visiting the

Pneumonia Symptoms

Fever

The high fever associated with pneumonia comes on quickly and is often accompanied by shaking or chills. Along with an elevated body temperature, the fevers associated with pneumonia may also cause weakness, aches, loss of appetite and even hallucinations. In the case of viral pneumonia, a low-grade fever(less than 102 degrees Fahrenheit) may be present. If the pneumonia is bacterial, the fever may be higher, and in the case of fungal pneumonia, the fever might be persistent and resist antibiotics.

Cough

A persistent cough is one of the symptoms most commonly associated with pneumonia. Like other symptoms, the type of cough can vary. It may be dry and hacking, may produce mucus or sputum and blood may be present in the material that is expelled. The mucus produced may be green, yellow or brown in color. A key characteristic of pneumonia is a cough that doesn't seem to improve or that worsens over time.

Breathing Difficulties

People with pneumonia may become short of breath during normal daily activities. After only slight exertion, they may need to take fast, shallow breaths or be unable to catch their breath. This happens because swelling or fluid buildup in the respiratory system, making it difficult for thepatient to take in enough oxygen. A normal adult at rest will take eight to 16 breaths per minute, while a person with pneumonia will breathe much more quickly, possibly around 28 breaths per minute or more.

Chest Pain

Chest pain may occur as a result of excessive coughing, or it could be the result of a buildup of fluid in the pleura, the layers of tissue that surround the lungs. Pleuritic chest pain may be worse when you inhale or cough, becoming a stabbing pain with each deep breath. The chest can also be sore to the touch.

Other Pneumonia Symptoms

Other pneumonia symptoms include headaches, nausea or vomiting, sweating or clamminess, diarrhea, fatigue or lack of energy, mental confusion (especially common in older adults), abnormal breathing sounds, joint pain, abdominal pain, sore throat or blue lips and fingernails. Blue lips or nails can indicate a lack of oxygen to the body. This is a very serious symptom that requires immediate medical attention. 

Certain types of pneumonia need to be treated with antibiotics and in some cases pneumonia can be fatal. If you feel you are exhibiting symptoms of pneumonia based on the information on this page, you should consult your doctor.

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