Pneumonia, Walking Pneumonia and Pneumonitis - Causes, Symptoms and Treatments

x-ray showing pneumonia
x-ray showing pneumonia

World Pneumonia Day

The goal of World Pneumonia Day is to increase awareness that pneumonia can be a killer, especially in underdeveloped, impoverished countries.

Pneumonia is the number one killer of children under the age of five - beating out AIDS, malaria, and measles combined.

This year, World Pneumonia Day falls on November 12.

For more information on World Pneumonia Day click here.

One way pneumonia can be detected is by listening for crackles in the lungs with a stethoscope
One way pneumonia can be detected is by listening for crackles in the lungs with a stethoscope

Pneumonia

What is pneumonia?

Pneumonia is inflammation in the lungs that is caused by infection from bacteria, viruses, fungi or parasites.

According to the Mayo Clinic, most pneumonia occurs when there is a breakdown in your body's natural defenses, allowing germs to invade and multiply inside your lungs. Along with bacteria, there are white blood cells that fill the air spaces in the lungs. These white blood cells are trying to destroy the organisms that are attacking the lungs. The air spaces become inflamed and filled with fluid, causing labored breathing.

What are the symptoms of pneumonia?

  • Can be similar to an upper respiratory infection including coughing, sneezing, sore throat
  • Fever
  • Shaking chills
  • A cough that produces yellowish-greenish sputum, sometimes blood-tinged
  • Shortness of breath
  • Feeling tired and weak
  • Cyanosis (bluish tint to the skin due to poorly oxygenated blood)
  • Chest pain
  • Low blood pressure
  • High heart rate
  • Low oxygen saturation
  • Loss of appetite
  • Sometimes the only symptoms are a worsening cough, muscle aches and headaches that develop slowly over time

What are the treatments for pneumonia?

  • Antibiotics
  • Rest
  • Fluids
  • Home care
  • Over the counter cough medicine does not help with a cough caused by pneumonia

Usually only those who have trouble breathing, the elderly or those with other medical issues need to be hospitalized if diagnosed with pneumonia.

80% of pneumonia cases in the United States call for hospitalization
80% of pneumonia cases in the United States call for hospitalization

Walking Pneumonia

What is walking pneumonia?

Walking pneumonia is also known as atypical pneumonia and is caused by an infection from mycoplasma pneumoniae - a microscopic organism related to bacteria.

About two million people are diagnosed with walking pneumonia each year. It is called walking pneumonia because the symptoms can be so mild that it does not call for bed rest. People can still go to work and do normal activities.

What are the symptoms of walking pneumonia?

  • Decline in energy level - you may feel tiredness for about 1-3 weeks before any other symptoms appear
  • Headaches
  • Sore throat
  • Chills
  • Mild fever
  • Chest pain
  • Rash
  • Increased respiratory rate
  • Dry cough

The symptoms are similar to the flu or a bad cold.

What are the treatments for walking pneumonia?

  • Sometimes the body cures itself of walking pneumonia but you can also see a doctor who may prescribe antibiotics to shorten the span of the sickness.

Both pneumonia and walking pneumonia can be contagious.

Atypical pneumonia is often called walking pneumonia because it is a lesser form of pneumonia where you can still do daily activities
Atypical pneumonia is often called walking pneumonia because it is a lesser form of pneumonia where you can still do daily activities
exposure to some chemicals may cause pneumonitis
exposure to some chemicals may cause pneumonitis

Pneumonitis

What is pneumonitis?

Pneumonitis refers to the non-infectious inflammation of lung tissue. Pneumonia is a type of pneumonitis but when there are other causes of inflammation besides the typical virus or bacteria, it is called pneumonitis.

According to the Mayo Clinic, pneumonitis can be caused by:

  • Occupational exposure to airborne particles, such as asbestos or silica
  • Some drugs, particularly chemotherapy drugs
  • Radiation therapy to the chest
  • Exposure to poultry, pigeons or pet birds
  • Many types of mold
  • Inhalation of dust or chemicals

What are the symptoms of pneumonitis?

  • Cough
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Low-grade fever
  • Body aches

If pneumonitis is left untreated, it could result in chronic pneumonitis. Symptoms would then include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Unintentional weight loss

What are the treatments for pneumonitis?

  • Avoid allergens or chemicals to which your lungs may be sensitive
  • Corticosteroids or steroids such as prednisone that help reduce inflammation
  • Antibiotics
  • Oxygen therapy

The type of treatment can depend on the cause of the pneumonitis.

Allergens can cause pneumonitis
Allergens can cause pneumonitis

Pneumonia Vaccine for Children

It has been recommended that children should receive the Pneumococcal Conjugate Vaccine (PCV). The former vaccine, PCV7 had recently been replaced by PCV13. To find the PCV13 vaccination schedule for children, click here.

Pneumonia Vaccine

Pneumococcal vaccination can prevent a specific type of pneumonia that is caused by Pneumococcus bacterium. Twenty-three out of the 80 types of pneumococcal bacteria are contained with this vaccine. These 23 serotypes cause the the vast majority of lung infections.

There are currently 2 types of pneumococcal vaccines: pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV13) and pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPSV).

Who should get the PPSV vaccine?

  • Adults over the age of 65
  • People over the age of 2 who have long-term health problems
  • People over the age of 2 who have a disease that lowers resistance to infection
  • People over the age of 2 who are taking drugs or treatments that lower resistance to infection
  • Adults between the ages of 19 and 64 who smoke or have asthma
  • Residents of nursing homes or long-term care facilities

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Comments 10 comments

Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 5 years ago from United States

Cari, You explained the differences very well. This is a very good hub. I got the vaccine as I have so many health problems I want to avoid anything that I can. The one thing is, it doesn't protect you from viruses, only bacteria pneumonia which is by far the most common.


TINA V profile image

TINA V 5 years ago

This is a well researched hub. The information you shared are important to understand its differences and learn how to prevent it. People sometimes neglect simple cough, loss of appetite, fever, and body aches because of the thought that it's just a part of stress in life. But this hub is useful to let readers know its consequences.


Cari Jean profile image

Cari Jean 5 years ago from Bismarck, ND Author

Pamela - thanks so much for your comment. The reason I decided to write it is because I just recovered from a bout of walking pneumonia and wanted to learn more about it, so I learned a lot too just by writing this hub. I may have to consider getting the vaccine as well.


Cari Jean profile image

Cari Jean 5 years ago from Bismarck, ND Author

Tina - thanks for your comment. We do need to pay more attention to what our bodies are trying to tell us. And if we do ignore our symptoms it usually becomes worse. I've learned to just go to the doctor when I feel something is wrong rather than trying to wait it out!


ehern33 profile image

ehern33 5 years ago

Great to know. It is always a good idea to know what the symptoms are and take action early on. This was very informative and useful. Good Job!!


Cari Jean profile image

Cari Jean 5 years ago from Bismarck, ND Author

ehern - thanks for your comment and your encouragement, I really appreciate hearing from you!


Pollyannalana profile image

Pollyannalana 5 years ago from US

It really surprises me doesn't it you when say like a movie star or someone we know absolutely has the best of care ends up dying of pneumonia? That is something that does surprise me to still take so many lives.

You are getting on up there in score girl, good for you!

Polly


Cari Jean profile image

Cari Jean 5 years ago from Bismarck, ND Author

Pollyannalanna - thanks for your comment. Yeah, I don't think it's that well known that people can actually die from pneumonia - it's a serious issue - esp. if you have an underlying health condition. Also, once one gets pneumonia they are more susceptible to getting it again, as I can attest to. Thanks for your encouragement as well!


stars439 profile image

stars439 5 years ago from Louisiana, The Magnolia and Pelican State.

A Wonderful, and Helpful Hub. God Bless You Precious Heart.


Cari Jean profile image

Cari Jean 5 years ago from Bismarck, ND Author

Stars - nice to see you! Thanks so much for your comment.

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