Pneumonia often presents the same symptoms as the common cold or flu and so it’s important to know how to pinpoint the differences. There are several signs of pneumonia that are not common with the cold or flu, these are the symptoms you need to look out for.
It is estimated that 900,000 Americans develop pneumonia every year. Adults over 65 are more likely to fall ill. Sadly, pneumonia remains a leading cause of death among elderly populations. Knowing how to look out for the early warning signs could help save a life.
The Symptoms of Pneumonia
Pneumonia has all the same symptoms as the common cold or flu, along with:
- A high fever
- Sharp or stabbing chest pains, especially during coughing episodes or when taking a deep breath
- Profusely sweating
- Elevated heartrate
- Labored breathing
- Blue-tint to lips or fingernails
- Green, yellow, or bloody mucus with coughing
- Decreased appetite
- Confusion (common in senior citizens)
3 Signs of Pneumonia to Watch Out For
1. An unusually bad cold
A runny nose, sore throat, lingering cough; these are all normal symptoms of influenza in adults. If your symptoms feel worse than a typical cold or increase in severity there’s a chance it’s something more serious, such as pneumonia. Especially if you are experiencing headaches, a high fever, severe aches and pains, or lethargy.
2. A “flu” with a high fever
A high fever is not a typical symptom of the common cold or flu for normally healthy adults. It is common for kids to get a bad fever with the flu, but for adults, a high fever is not a typical symptom. You should contact a doctor if you have a high fever, fevers provoked by pneumonia can reach up to 105 F.
3. Symptoms start to get better before coming on stronger than before
Patients with pneumonia often report feeling better before suddenly becoming more ill than they were before. The average common cold or flu should show signs of improvement within 2 to 5 days. You might get stuck with a lingering cough or sore throat for up to 2 weeks, but with help from cough drops and tissues, you should feel almost like your normal self relatively quickly. If your cold symptoms are not improving, or appear to be getting worse, it could be pneumonia. It is not normal to stay in bed for one week from a cold.
Are you at an increased risk for developing pneumonia?
Risk factors for developing pneumonia include:
- Anyone 65 and older
- You take drugs or undergo treatments that weaken your immune system response
- You have a disease that impacts your immune system
- Regular exposure to chemicals and pollutants
- Unhealthy lifestyle habits like smoking or drinking
Bronchitis Vs. Pneumonia
Bronchitis and pneumonia are commonly confused for one another, and while they are both infections related to the lungs, they impact different areas of lung function. Bronchitis is swelling and infection of your bronchial tubes, which are responsible for carrying air to your lungs. Pneumonia is an infection that impacts the small air sacs, known as alveoli, inside of your lungs.
The most common symptoms of bronchitis include congestion of the chest, coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath. These symptoms are similar to pneumonia, which is why a doctor may need to determine which type of infection you have.
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