Pneumonia - Lung Infection - Office Visit

This is a lung infection caused by germs (bacteria, a virus or a fungus).

This is a lung infection caused by germs (bacteria, a virus or a fungus).

A lung infection (pneumonia) is an illness caused by germs affecting the lungs. The germs can be a bacteria, a virus or a fungus. The symptoms can range from mild to severe. How sick you become depends on the type of germ, your age, other conditions you may have and the ability of your immune system to fight infection.

  • Bacteria are the most common cause of a lung infection in adults.
  • Pneumonia can follow a cold or the flu. This is especially true if you are very young, very old or if you also have chronic medical problems, such as diabetes and lung disease.

The most common symptoms of a lung infection are:

  • Cough (sputum may be discolored)
  • Fever and chills
  • Pain in chest that increases when you breath or cough
  • Difficulty breathing or breathing that is fast or shallow
  • Headaches, sweating, fatigue and confusion can sometimes occur

Your healthcare provider may suggest a chest X-ray, blood tests, a test to determine the level of oxygen in your blood (pulse oximetry) or a test of the fluid you cough up from your lungs (sputum).

In general, people have a higher chance of developing pneumonia if they are very old, very young, smoke or have chronic medical conditions. Chronic conditions may include diabetes, asthma and COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) or any condition that weakens the immune system, such as HIV. To reduce the chance of a lung infection you can take these steps:

  • If you smoke, stop! Also, stay away from secondhand smoke.
  • Wear a mask or respirator if you are in a very dusty or moldy area.
  • Avoid being around anyone who has a cold or the flu.
  • People at high risk should be immunized against the flu and pneumonia.

For treatment, make sure to get plenty of rest and drink enough fluids. Also, avoid cigarette smoke and other respiratory irritants. Your health care provider may order an antibiotic or over-the-counter medication for you.

  • Remember, antibiotics are NOT effective against viruses. The overuse of antibiotics can result in bacteria becoming resistant to antibiotics.
  • One of the best ways to stop getting sick is to stay away from people who are coughing a lot.
  • One of the best ways to stop making other people sick is to cover your mouth when you cough and to wash your hands often!

Make an appointment with your healthcare provider if you have symptoms of pneumonia.

  • Bring a copy of your medical history (past illnesses, surgeries and hospitalizations).
  • Make a list of your medications (including over-the-counter).
  • Write down any questions, symptoms or concerns you want to talk about.

Here are some questions to ask your healthcare provider.

  • What is my diagnosis and what treatment are you recommending? Are there any alternatives?
  • When might I start to see improvement in my symptoms?
  • What symptoms or signs should prompt a call to you?
  • What tests do I need? What is the reason for those tests? Will the test results change my treatment plan?
  • What are my follow-up plans and what symptoms should I report before my next appointment?

Make sure you understand your treatment plan, any possible alternatives and what medications are recommended (including possible side effects).


Also known as:

Shortness of Breath
Respiratory Infection
Pneumonia - Lung Infection - Office Visit
Lung Infection
Infection in Chest
Chest Infection
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