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Who Gets Pneumonia?

The elderly, infants and young children, and individuals with underlying health problems, such as chronic bronchitis, diabetes and congestive heart failure, are considered at high risk for pneumonia. People who have diseases that impair the immune system, such as AIDS, are especially susceptible to pneumonia.

Patients suffering from chronic illnesses, such as asthma, or those undergoing treatment for cancer are also vulnerable to the condition. People with certain genetic disorders, such as sickle-cell disease and cystic fibrosis, are also at a greater risk to respiratory infections or pneumonia.

Exposure to cigarette smoke, which can injure the airways and damage the cilia, also increases the risk of pneumonia. Alcohol or drug abuse is also associated with pneumonia because these substances can diminish the reflexes that trigger our defense system (coughing and sneezing).

Recognizing the Symptoms of Pneumonia

The onset of pneumonia can range from gradual to sudden.

Common Symptoms

  • Chest pain
  • Sustained high fever
  • Headache
  • Greenish-yellow or rust-colored mucus
  • Productive cough
  • Shaking and chills
  • Shortness of breath
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fatigue

Symptoms Indicating More Serious Condition

  • Rapid breathing and heartbeat
  • Excessive sweating
  • Low blood pressure
  • Bluish-skin
  • Mental confusion
  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Coughing up blood
  • Vomiting and diarrhea

Pneumonia Q&A

Question from Bobbi of Los Angeles, California

I was diagnosed with pneumonia four days ago and have been taking erythromycin since. I have been having severe pain in the left, upper side of my back, around my shoulder blade which is not getting better. Would this be related to the pneumonia? Is there any thing I can do about it? Should it be improving faster than this?

Dear Bobbi:

Shoulder area pain can certainly be a sign of pneumonia. Obviously, the shoulder should be on the same side of the body as the pneumonia. Pain medications, antibiotics, and time are the treatments of choice. Pneumonia can take many days to heal.

Please consult your doctor if you are worsening.

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