Blog by: Suryakant Tripathi.
Pneumonia is a common respiratory condition that mainly affects children. According to UNICEF statistics, it accounts for around 15% of all under-five deaths and killing 920,000 children in 2015. Caused by a bacterium called Streptococcus pneumonia, the bacteria is opportunistic, meaning you can get an infection if your immune system is weak or compromised due to a previous infection. As pneumonia is a life-threatening condition, early diagnosis can help in the treatment and care. Often mistaken for cold or flu, here are few characteristic symptoms of pneumonia you should be aware of.
Cough: A productive cough is a classic sign of pneumonia. Bacterial pneumonia produces green or yellow sputum. Occasionally, the sputum may be rusty or spotted with blood due to the invasion of the lung tissues by the pathogen. Infection mainly produces bloody mucus with Legionella pneumonia. Here’s more on what the colour of your cough/mucus/phlegm says about your health.
Fever: Fever is usually high grade (more than 100 F) in the case of children. High fever is associated with shaking chills (rigours). Older adults may have a mild fever.
Shortness of breath: Pneumonia is an inflammatory disease. The pathogen causing the disease primarily attacks the air sacs (alveoli) of the lungs. When the pathogen load increases in the lungs, they cover and start invading the air passage affecting the nose and throat. This causes breathing difficulty. Shortness of breath may particularly be experienced with physical activity or exertion.
Chest pain: As the inflammation gets worse, progressive cough develops. The person starts feeling a pricking or dull aching type of chest pain. Chest pain may worsen to an extent that it becomes difficult for the person to breathe normally or cough properly.
Confusion: Shortness of breath may deprive the brain of an adequate amount of oxygen and other nutrient substances. This results in a state of delirium or confusion and unclear thinking, especially in older adults.
Sweating: With high fever and shaking chills, profuse sweating may be seen in the case of infection of bacterial pneumonia.
Change in colour of lips and nails: Shortness of breath in bacterial pneumonia may cause a deprivation of oxygen in cells of the body. This can be seen evidently through a change in colour of the nails and lips. The nail bed turns white in colour resulting in white nail syndrome (leukonychia), and the lips may turn pale or bluish in colour. It can also cause blue coloration of the nails, lips and toes known as cyanosis in severe pneumonia.
Decreased energy levels and fatigue: Reduced oxygen levels also result in constant fatigue, muscle pain, headache, overall weakness and lowered energy levels. If your cough is associated with any of the above symptoms, there are high chances that you are suffering from pneumonia. Hence, consult your doctor immediately to get treated as it can cause severe lung infection and even death (in extreme cases).
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